Gov. Mary Fallin said she isn't backing down from a budget agreement with lawmakers that doesn't call for raises in the upcoming fiscal year, despite pleas from state troopers and correctional officers who visited the state Capitol in recent days.
“I made it clear I'd like to look at all of our state employees and the various positions that they hold and do an in-depth analysis of where our state employees rank compared to the private-sector marketplace,” said Fallin, who on the first day of this year's session called for a study that would compare the pay and benefits of state employees with those paid in the private sector and other states.
“I would like to do the total market analysis and then next year focus on the areas that we need to bring up to better standards,” she said Friday.
House Democrats, during Thursday's debate on the budget, questioned why troopers and correctional officers couldn't be given raises for the upcoming fiscal year instead of waiting for results from a study. They said the state finance office conducts an annual study of state employee pay; however the study doesn't include benefits.
“It's important we look at the whole package,” said Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “We have a lot of state employees that are very deserving of pay raises.
“It's going to be a very detailed compensation study and I think to be fair we need to go through that process,” he said. “While our actual pay to state employees may be less than the private sector, our benefit package is supreme compared to the private sector and other states. All that needs to be looked at extensively. Hopefully, we will have a plan when we come back next year.”
The $7.1 billion budget agreement includes $200,000 for the compensation study. Fallin said she hopes GOP legislative leaders, who reached an agreement with her on the budget earlier this month, will abide by the agreement.
“When they reach an agreement with us, they need to stick to their word,” Fallin said. “Certainly we're open to look at anything they might consider.”
Bingman said he expects senators will approve the budget measure and send it on to the governor.
“Once we have it in a budget agreement it's difficult to backtrack and say, ‘We need to go give somebody a pay raise,'” he said.
Fallin said she appreciates the service given by understaffed troopers and correctional officers.
“We know there are some changes that need to be made in areas, but just give us a little bit of time to figure out what needs to be done,” she said.
House members, mostly Democrats, questioned why, with the budget nearly 4 percent more than this year's, that no money could be found for pay raises for state troopers and correctional officers, who have gone several years without raises. Some agencies have given raises to employees since the last across-the-board pay increase in October 2006.
Rep. Scott Martin, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, said some agencies have used money from revolving funds to provide pay increases for state workers. Martin, R-Norman, suggested the Corrections Department, which has about $22 million in revolving funds, and the Public Safety Department, which has about $26 million in revolving funds, use some of that money for raises or bonuses to correctional offices and troopers.
Of the Corrections Department's revolving funds, about $11.1 million is not tied to specific purposes, but most of that is committed to other expenses such as private prison beds and inmate medical costs, a spokesman said.
The Public Safety Department's funds are restricted, an agency spokesman said.