State troopers and correctional officers, who received the backing of legislators this year for pay raises, find themselves waiting until a study is completed that looks at the pay of all state employees.
Gov. Mary Fallin didn't include pay raises for the state's approximately 34,000 employees in her budget she presented to lawmakers when this year's session started in February.
She, like most Republican legislative leaders, opposes a cost-of-living increase.
Instead, she proposed $200,000 to develop a study to look at the pay of state employees with the goal to move toward a performance-based compensation system.
The study also will look at what private businesses are paying workers who perform similar tasks as state employees.
State employees haven't had an across-the-board increase since October 2006.
Some agencies have provided pay increases for their employees since then. The $7.1 billion budget agreement approved last week by GOP legislative leaders and Fallin calls for the study and no raises.
“We want to have a long-term plan to where we can take a good look and adjust the areas that we need to adjust for different salary ranges for all of our state employees,” she said. “We do realize that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and in particular some of the employees … in corrections do need to come up in some areas.”
Workers had high hopes
Troopers and correctional officers received a glimmer of hope that they might be given special treatment.
A House budget subcommittee approved House Bill 2145, which called for a 16 percent pay raise for troopers, and HB 2146, which would increase the starting pay for correctional officers and provide a 5 percent increase for other officers and state Corrections Department workers.
House Bill 2146 didn't advance, but HB 2145 went on to the Senate, where amendments were added giving pay raises also to the Corrections Department, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission. It passed 44-0.
The House last week refused the Senate amendments, and HB 2145 was sent to a conference committee. That's where it was when the budget agreement was reached, with no raises for troopers, correctional officers or any other state employees.
With no funding for trooper raises in the 2014 fiscal year budget, HB 2145 is expected to stall in the conference committee. It could be used as a vehicle for raises next year.
Rep. Jeff Hickman, chairman of the House budget subcommittee on public safety and author of HB 2145, said he is disappointed troopers and correctional officers won't get raises this year.
“The budget process requires agreement between the governor and the speaker and Senate pro tem,” said Hickman, R-Fairview.
“The governor has pretty firmly said all year that she wanted to study state employee pay before she did any raises. I was hopeful as negotiations went on that perhaps there would be a way for raises particularly for the crisis that we have in corrections, as well as the critical shortage we have of state troopers.”
Hickman said higher pay for correctional officers is needed to combat higher wages and better hours offered by private employers. Only 62 percent of the Corrections Department's 5,800 authorized correctional officer positions are filled.
By the numbers
Public safety pay
Oklahoma's hourly pay for correctional officers — the lowest in the region, according to the Corrections Department. Starting pay for correctional officers is $12.98 an hour in Kansas, $13.38 an hour in Texas and $18.88 an hour in Colorado.
The percentage of correctional workers in Oklahoma who qualify for food stamps, Rep. Jeff Hickman said.
The percentage of the Corrections Department staff whose children qualify for school lunch
The number of troopers — a 22-year low. The patrol is authorized to have 925 troopers.
The number of cadets the Oklahoma Highway Patrol's academy — the first one in about three years — graduated last year; 24 troopers retired in 2012.
Of the six states bordering Oklahoma, only New Mexico pays its troopers less, said Trooper Keith Barenberg, president of the Oklahoma State Troopers Association.