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Possible pay raise for Oklahoma state employees

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a measure today, by a vote of 90-0, that would increase state employee salaries to 90 percent of private-sector pay over a four-year period.

House Bill 3293, author Rep. Leslie Osborn stated that she believes that competitive wages will enhance the state’s ability to choose from the top recruits.

“The State of Oklahoma is losing skilled and educated employees to retirement and the private sector,” said Osborn. “Our state agencies need productive minds and ingenuity to fill those gaps, provide better services and address the problems of the future.”

Each year, the bill will set aside three percent of the previous fiscal year’s payroll costs for salary adjustments.

The bill would also give the Office of Management Enterprise Services the authority to set pay structures and determine if targeted pay band adjustments are necessary.

Supporters of the bill are calling it a commitment to attracting quality employees.

According to Sterling Zearley, the Executive Director of Oklahoma Public Employees Association(OPEA), state employers such as correction centers, DHS offices, and veteran’s centers have had high turnover rates.

Zearley believes that Oklahoma needs to improve state employee salaries if they want to receive quality results from them.

“Oklahoma needs a system that rewards employees for doing a good job and provides an opportunity for raises more frequently than every seven or eight years,” Zearley said.  “Currently, we have no system in place that offers employees a structured opportunity for pay raises. While there is still work to be done on this legislation, we believe the house vote is a step in the right direction.”

According to reports, the bill is consistent with a study that showed most state employees are paid approximately 20 percent less than similar workers in the private market earn.

Speaker Jeff Hickman praised OPEA for developing proposals to improve state employee compensation.

“In discussions with OPEA, I have found that they work toward finding solutions to challenges rather than just pointing out what may be wrong.  It is through this type of dialogue that we will be able to begin to take the steps necessary to make better state employment through improvements in compensation”.

The bill will now head to the state Senate for consideration.