The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Bill 1717 by a 91 to 4 margin on March 5, 2013. The bill authored by Rep. Leslie Osborn authorizes a study to determine how state employee compensation can be improved to ensure a strong state workforce. It also provides for a one-time $1,000 payment to employees whose performance at least “meets standards” and who have not received a pay adjustment in the past two years.
“The intent of the legislation is to address understaffing due to low pay in areas such as corrections, public safety and child welfare,” said Osborn. “My legislation creates a one-time bonus of $1,000 as an incentive to help retain critical employees such as those who man our corrections facilities and haven’t received a raise since 2006, but it’s the study this bill authorizes that is really going to help create a market-based system that will address the need to make salaries more competitive.”
Many state employees have not received a pay increase in several years and OPEA is working with lawmakers to determine how best to compete for qualified employees. Lawmakers are supportive of creating a system that would reduce costly employee turnover and support good employees in their state careers.
“The state can’t keep jails adequately staffed at the current level of pay,” said Osborn. “We have to start making those salaries more competitive with the other job opportunities that are available for potential employees.”
A compensation study could be the first step toward improving state employee wages in a way that would be competitive with similar jobs in the private sector which would benefit both employees and state agencies.
The $1,000 one-time payment would be made to those current employees who have not had their pay increased in several years but have had an increased cost of living and have had an increase in out-of-pocket insurance expenses.
“We appreciate Rep. Osborn working with OPEA on this bill as well as the 91 representatives who voted for it,” said Sterling Zearley, OPEA Executive Director. “It has been a while since many state employees have had a pay raise and it is a positive sign that the house overwhelmingly passed this bill”.
The bill, Sen. Clark Jolley as co-author, will now go to the senate for consideration.