NORMAN — For years, lawmakers have struggled with how to retain, retrain and compensate the 34,000 employees who perform the services we expect from our state government.
The last pay raise for state employees was six years ago. Workers got a 5 percent across-the-board increase.
Studies from the Oklahoma Public Employees Association show state workers are paid, on average, 19 percent below what is paid for similar jobs in the private sector. Turnover among employees averages 13 percent, forcing the state to pay millions in retraining and recruiting costs.
Now, some legislators have announced plans to sponsor legislation next session that will bring state worker salaries to at least 80 percent of what similar jobs would pay in the private sector.
That’s a noble cause, but many jobs performed by state workers don’t have a similar private sector component. How many state troopers or DHS case workers are there working for private businesses? Also, comparing benefits like retirement and insurance plans is often problematic.
A merit-based pay plan that looks at comparable jobs makes sense for some state positions. For other jobs, an across-the-board raise makes sense.