The debate over government employee pay isn't confined to Oklahoma. Stateline.org notes the issue is being argued across the country.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott has proposed giving all state employees a $1,200 bonus and allowing agencies the ability to give permanent raises to some high-performing employees. As in Oklahoma, Florida state workers haven't had an across-the-board raise since 2006.
In Arizona, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is tying pay raises to an overhaul of the state's personnel system. New employees are now required to forgo traditional civil service protections, giving managers more flexibility in workforce management. Current employees who choose to opt out of the old civil-service system get a 5 percent one-time bonus that Brewer now wants to make permanent.
Here, Gov. Mary Fallin isn't supporting a pay raise this year. Instead, she wants a study conducted on development of a performance-based pay system for state workers. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association wants a one-time bonus of $1,000 for state employees to help offset the lack of a raise in recent years.
However, increased efficiencies have allowed some agencies to give raises without extra appropriations. Fallin's study would account for those raises, as well as benefits that may exceed private-business norms, in determining the true status of Oklahoma government pay compared with the private sector.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows state and local government wages grew 1.1 percent in 2012, while private-sector wages increased 1.7 percent. The Rockefeller Institute of Government says state and local government jobs have been reduced by 681,000 nationwide since August 2008. Those are actually encouraging statistics. Why? They suggest government has been forced to become more efficient. This focus should be maintained. The need to provide competitive pay doesn't negate the need for structural workforce reforms and efficiency measures that are routine in the private sector.