The 2013 legislative session is only in its first week of activity and already the process has delivered disappointing news to the state’s 34,000 public sector employees.
In a story released by The Oklahoman on Tuesday, Feb. 5, the paper reports that Gov. Mary Fallin’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget does not include pay adjustments of any kind for state workers.
OPEA is disappointed in that news, as assisting state employees to receive their first market-adjusted pay increase since 2006 is a top priority. But this isn’t a final decision, not by a longshot. The new session isn’t even a week old yet.
Traditionally, the budget released by the governor’s office is a starting point, a beginning negotiation, if you will. The entire legislative session, which runs from February through May, will provide many opportunities for changes to that budget plan.
The point? There is still a long way to go this spring and the quest for improved compensation for state employees is still a distinct possibility. A handful of measures supportive of that idea are in the mix on both the House and Senate sides of the Capitol, with solid support in both bodies. Many representatives and senators we’ve talked to realize state employees are in need of relief and are pragmatic enough to see the bigger picture when it comes to ensuring key state positions are staffed fully.
While we appreciate Gov. Fallin working toward a comprehensive plan, state employees need relief immediately. Waiting for the results of a study won’t help the employee at DHS who also qualifies for food stamps. Nor will it assist the DOC officer who has to work 16 hours straight because the next shift is now unstaffed because that former co-worker went to the oilfield to earn twice as much money. When it comes to the world of Oklahoma’s state employees, the time to act isn’t after the results of a study, it was yesterday.
OPEA is working with leadership in both the House and the Senate on a one-time, performance-based payment to help state employees until the comprehensive plan can be established. Our members need to continue to educate their lawmakers and remind them what a dire situation they’re in now and that relief is needed immediately.