Raise Workers Salaries Before Directors

The recent disclosure of pay increases for some state agency directors shows another example of inconsistency in Oklahoma’s state employee compensation system. A recent compensation study showed that state employee compensation lags more than 20 percent behind private sector compensation and Oklahoma began to implement a five-year plan to bring pay closer to the private market.

The director salary list shows that some agencies took a different approach in raising directors’ salaries with some getting as much as a 58 percent increase. If a five-year plan is appropriate to bring front-line workers closer to market, it seems reasonable to use the same approach to raise directors’ salaries.

OPEA believes that the state needs to continually review all state agency positions, including agency heads, to ensure that compensation is sufficient to recruit and keep talented employees. Raising front-line and support staff compensation to be closer to market should be the top priority of all state agencies and director pay raises should be handled the same as their staff salaries. If a five-year plan to improve compensation is used for front-line staff, a five-year plan should be used for directors.

Governor Fallin, House Speaker Hickman and Senate President Pro Tem Bingman all questioned the way the agency directors’ salaries were carried out at a time state agencies were cutting some budgets. OPEA joins them in requesting that state agency boards and commissions look at all employees’ salaries and prioritize those positions with low compensation or high turnover before raising directors’ pay.

Oklahoma has begun a long-range plan to improve compensation by increasing compensation for targeted state employees who perform a wide array of services for Oklahoma citizens. We will continue to work with lawmakers to bring compensation closer to market. OPEA understands the need to make these changes over a period of time. What we don’t understand is why some agency boards and commissions believe the need to increase the bosses’ salaries should not follow the same plan.

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