Despite insistence from both the Governor and legislative leaders that there are absolutely no funds available for a state employee pay raise, as evidenced by an agreement this week that gives agencies a “stand still budget,” the Oklahoma Public Employees Association today points to a logical funding stream that would in no way debilitate the budget.
“The state’s Rainy Day Fund currently holds a balance of $600 million,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley, “and up to $180 million can be used as free up money for pay raises.”
Zearley said that, in this time of rising food and fuel costs, the time is now for state employees, who have gone without a pay raise for the past six out of nine years.
“We have been told throughout the negotiations process time and again to be ‘reasonable,’” Zearley said. “Well, we have a very reasonable solution for this crisis.”
That state employees have repeatedly gone beyond the call of duty should be of importance to state leaders, Zearley adds.
“State employees have taken every step that the Governor and legislators have asked,” he said. “They have absorbed massive turnover that wastes $85 million per year in taxpayer money, they have increased Child Welfare caseloads from the national average of 15 to the Oklahoma standard of 51, they have taken on hundreds of miles of roads without additional resources for maintenance and Oklahoma has some of the worst highways and bridges in the country and they have record numbers of prisoners being locked away in crumbling state prisons.”
According to Zearley it is time for state leaders to make a commitment to quality state services.
“OPEA is calling on the Governor and legislature to acknowledge their duty to state employees,” he said. “It may take another look at the budget, as well as some innovation, but, whatever it takes; state employees must have a pay raise this year!”