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Okla. agency launches state employee pay study

Sean Murphy, Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma officials announced Wednesday that they're launching a study to determine how state employees are compensated, an analysis Gov. Mary Fallin has said is a critical first step before workers can receive a pay raise.

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services began the study this week to determine the appropriate level of pay for an estimated 33,000 state workers.

"The state needs the ability to recruit, reward and retain a quality work force to serve its citizens," Fallin said in a statement. "This study will explore sustainable, fiscally conservative ways to ensure capable state workers are appropriately compensated for the important work they do day in and day out."

The study is being conducted by OMES' Human Capital Management division, along with national consultants and a group of officials from the Legislature, governor's office, state agencies and Oklahoma Public Employees Association.

Kenning Consulting, a firm that has experience with similar studies in other states, has been awarded a $77,000 contract to provide technical assistance and develop recommendations, OMES spokesman John Estus said. The agency also is soliciting bids for an actuary to be involved in the process.

State workers have not received an across-the-board pay raise in seven years. Fallin resisted legislative attempts to approve pay increases this year for Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers and state prison workers, citing the need for a comprehensive study first.

Sterling Zearley, the director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said he does not necessarily endorse an across-the-board pay hike for state workers, but said the state needs to develop a "pay philosophy" for its employees.

"First of all, to recruit good employees ... whatever the market calls for for that position, that's what we need to pay or somewhere in that area," Zearley said. "And if someone comes in and they do a good job, they need to be compensated for that.

"This study is going to look at the benefits, salaries, and will adopt a pay philosophy for how these employees should be paid based on these market studies."

The study, which will also include recommendations for appropriate benefits packages, will cover all state workers except for employees of public schools, career technology centers, and colleges and universities.

A final report is expected in the fall.


Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy