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State of Oklahoma seeks fair, affordable pay plan

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: January 9, 2013

The Oklahoma Transportation Commission has voted to boost base salaries for lower-tier positions at the Department of Transportation, costing up to $7.2 million by 2014. At the Department of Corrections, officials are seeking pay raises for correctional officers, whose starting salary is $11.83 an hour.

Officials at several state agencies have noted that it's harder to retain employees because private-sector pay, particularly in the booming oil field, is much better. Oil-field workers can earn as much as $25 an hour, while information technicians are paid as much as $20,000 more by oil companies than by the state. Last year's turnover rate at ODOT was 15 percent.

We don't dispute some state jobs may warrant a pay increase, particularly if it ultimately improves public safety. But from a 20,000-feet view, this is a good problem to have! The last thing anyone should want is for state government jobs to be preferable to private-sector employment. Every dollar going to state salaries is a dollar taken out of productive use in the private sector.

When government jobs become more lucrative than comparable employment in the marketplace, it creates perverse incentives impeding business growth and job creation. In other parts of the country, the discrepancy between government employees and other citizens can be truly jarring. In New York City, school janitors have made as much as $166,000 per year. In Newport Beach, Calif., two lifeguard battalion chiefs made more than $200,000, while full-time lifeguards earned six figures after accounting for base pay, overtime and benefits, according to The Orange County Register.

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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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