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Raises for Oklahoma House of Representatives employees sparks outrage

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Legislature has been grappling for some time now with how to get teachers and state employees a pay raise.

So far, they have failed.

However, the Oklahoma House of Representatives has figured out how to give 14 of its employees a raise.

“To hear that a group of employees received a pay raise given by those who control our state’s purse strings was frustrating for a lot of state employees,” said Tom Dunning, Communications Coordinator for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association.

Dunning says the last time state employees saw a pay raise from the Legislature was Oct. 1, 2006.

“We didn’t have the Oklahoma City Thunder then.  We had the Hornets,” said Dunning.

In all, 14 different House employees have been given pay raises since the beginning of the year, including the entire legal department and almost the entire fiscal department.

The raises range from 4.95% to 30.3%.

Position % of Raise Increase New Salary
Staff Attorney 30.30% $20,000 $86,000
Payroll Manager 4.95% $2,830 $60,000
Chief Counsel 9.90% $10,000 $111,000
Assistant Chief Counsel 14.06% $12,325 $100,000
Staff Attorney 7.84% $4,363 $60,000
Fiscal Analyst 10.64% $5,000 $52,000
Staff Attorney 21.21% $14,000 $80,000
Staff Attorney 16.13% $10,000 $72,000
Fiscal Analyst 6.38% $3,000 $50,000
Staff Attorney 16.13% $10,000 $72,000
Fiscal Analyst 6.82% $3,000 $47,000
Asst. Appropriations and Budget 11.35% $5,096 $50,000
Senior Staff Attorney 17.42% $13,350 $90,000
Fiscal Director 14.58% $14,000 $110,000

The employee receiving that highest percentage is a staff attorney who is now getting $20,000 a year more.

"Somebody over there got a 30% raise.  That’s huge, that would be life changing for a teacher,” said Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association.  “It’s shocking.  The raises are shocking.”

“We’ve been asking for a teacher and support professional pay raise for years and instead, there’s corporate tax giveaway,” Priest added.

“When we’ve had RIF’s and furloughs yet we have one group getting pay raises, it’s hard to justify that,” said Dunning.

Both OPEA and OEA say if the House of Representatives is going to take care of its own, they expect it to do the same for other state agencies and teachers.

“This year we’re expecting action.  If we get increased revenue, we expect a state employee pay raise as well,” said Dunning.

“We haven’t had a raise in over 10 years, so it's time.  It’s time that they use that same logic and philosophy for our educators and our support professionals,” said Priest.

Jason Sutton, Press Secretary for the Office of House Speaker Charles A. McCall, sent us this statement concerning the raises.

"These pay raises were paid out of the House of Representative's appropriated operating budget. House committee staff, particularly staff attorneys and fiscal analysts, have been paid below market value relative to the state agencies for many years. The House routinely loses professional staff, and corresponding experience and institutional knowledge, to the executive branch because the agencies pay more. In fact, since December the House has lost both the deputy fiscal director and the parliamentarian to substantially higher paying jobs at separate state agencies. That was more than 30 years of experience and knowledge that cannot be easily replaced, if at all. The House has a relatively small professional staff serving 101 lawmakers, and we believe it is important to maintain continuity and experience to best serve the state. Also, it is important to remember that state agencies can and routinely do give employees pay raises out of their own operating budgets."

Sutton also tells News 4 the House recently hired a new parliamentarian at approximately 55% of the salary of the salary of the previous parliamentarian and that as House leadership evaluate the organization and its personnel needs, some positions are adjusted up and some positions are adjusted down.