Protect Core State Services

The state approved an across-the-board pay raise for state employees, but it is yet unclear if the budget hole is filled.

We face yet another huge budget hole this year.

Oklahoma is facing a budget hole for fiscal year 2019. Continued revenue growth is continuing to fill it, but will not be sufficient. This will be the fourth consecutive year of our state not having enough revenue to sustain its core services. The fat is long gone, and we are cutting into the bone. The Time is NOW to end this destructive cycle.

The legislature's failure to raise revenues caused our state's bond ratings to be lowered because we have not dealt with our structural revenue problem. Years of embarrassing headlines about state revenue failures and cuts to core services are hobbling economic development. Companies don't want to locate here, because we are not investing in our quality of life.

Our teaching hospitals needed an emergency $142 million transfusion just to stay open.

The state worker pay gap is too large, causing wasteful turnover. The new raises from $750 to $2,000 will help somewhat.

An October 2017 study found that average salaries for state employees fell to 24 percent below the competitive labor market in 2016 and concluded that they are underpaid. Since 2005, the state average salary increased by 39% while the pay in the overall market had increased by almost 70%.

As compensation fell further behind, the state employee turnover rate rose to 20.5% in 2016, a nearly 40 percent increase from a decade earlier. Employee turnover cost the state over $135 million in 2016.

Repeated agency cuts have reduced the number of state employees to less than it had in 2001 even though they are serving almost 500,000 more people, an increase of 14%. Over half of all appropriated agencies (39 of 65) have seen their state funding cut by over 20 percent since 2009.

Although both teachers and state employees haven't seen across-the-board raises in a decade, in 2014 a 6.25% increase was given to select employees within the following occupational groups: Corrections, Nursing, Juvenile Services, Social Services, and Law Enforcement. In addition, Correctional Officers received an 8% increase that year.

You can see in the graph that a $750-$2,000 pay raise will only narrow the pay gap a bit. More state employee raises will be needed in future years.