House Bill 3293 to boost pay for some government workers

Legislation to tie state employee salaries to private-sector wages and employee performance, and to eliminate across-the-board pay raises, was approved by an overwhelming margin Tuesday (May 20) in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 3293 directs the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) to “study and establish a performance evaluation system” that will “effectively link pay and performance while taking into consideration both the relativity of the position to market and the performance of the employee.”

The legislation will give the Human Capital Resource Division of OMES authority to set pay structures and determine whether targeted pay-band adjustments are necessary.

Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, the author of H.B. 3293, said the legislation will result in $37.5 million in pay raises for more than 7,700 of “the worst compensated” state employees. Reportedly much of that money will be dedicated to pay raises for some 1,549 correctional officers, who last received a pay raise of 2 percent eight years ago; for child welfare specialists, in order to comply with the Department of Human Services’ Pinnacle Plan developed as part of a settlement agreement to a Tulsa class-action lawsuit over the treatment of children in state custody; and for approximately 775 Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers, their first pay hike in eight years.

The Oklahoma Total Remuneration Study of 2013 determined that OHP trooper salaries were 14 percent below the average salary of troopers in other states.

The pay raise is badly needed for recruitment and retention of troopers, said Capt. Randy Rogers, the OHP’s legislative liaison. Two dozen police and sheriff’s departments in Oklahoma pay entry-level salaries that are higher than what freshly minted OHP troopers receive, Rogers said.

Osborn said it will take four years to gradually bring all state employees up to 90 percent of private-sector pay.

Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, complained that more than 30,000 public school teachers will not realize a pay raise under HB 3293.

House Democratic Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, observed that thousands of Oklahoma’s 34,000 state employees won’t get a pay hike, either. In response, Osborn said approximately one-third of Oklahoma’s state employees have received a “salary adjustment” at one time or another over the last seven years.

Inman said he’s glad some state workers will receive a well-deserve pay increase, but he insisted that the Legislature has opted to trade a lucrative public employees’ pension system (via H.B. 2630) for the pay increase in H.B. 3293.