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How can Oklahoma mesh long-term salary plan, other needs and a reduction in taxes?

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: April 25, 2012

STATE Rep. Leslie Osborn and Sterling Zearley typically aren't on the same side of an issue involving spending.

Osborn, R-Mustang, has authored more than a few bills in recent years to shrink state government. This session she's fighting to lower the state's income tax. Zearley is in charge of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, which represents thousands of state workers who believe continuing cuts to state government come at a high cost to state workers and all Oklahomans.

Yet there they were, Osborn and Zearley, appearing recently at the state Capitol touting a plan to conduct a market compensation study on state jobs and to dedicate $25 million in state employee health savings as a one-time bonus for state employees.

“Those two things can work together,” Osborn said of tax decreases and a better pay system for state workers. “If we have a lower turnover rate, we have happier employees; we have better morale. We're better serving our core functions of government without even necessarily costing the government any more by paying at a more equal structure to what the private structure does.”

The latter might be true only if such a study shows state worker salaries aren't too far off from the pay of private-sector workers. That may not be a safe assumption. And if the pay gaps are substantial, then what?

As The Oklahoman's Michael McNutt pointed out, a market compensation study isn't a new idea. A task force did the same during former Gov. Brad Henry's administration, but Zearley said recommendations resulting from the study were never implemented. So it goes with many legislative studies.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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