Oklahoma's state employees get no raises in budget plan

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative budget leaders want a study conducted to look at the pay of all state employees with the goal to move toward a performance-based compensation system.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: May 6, 2013
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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.

Legislator's response

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

$11.83

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.

About 30 percent

The percentage of correctional workers in Oklahoma who qualify for food stamps, Rep. Jeff Hickman said.

85 percent

The percentage of the Corrections Department staff whose children qualify for school lunch programs.

767

The number of troopers — a 22-year low. The patrol is authorized to have 925 troopers.

30

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.

More information

Of the six states bordering Oklahoma, only New Mexico pays its troopers less, said Trooper Keith Barenberg, president of the Oklahoma State Troopers Association.

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