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As Oklahoma Lawmakers Try to Fill Budget Hole, State Employees Ask For Increased Pay

Flickr / texasbackroads

As Oklahoma lawmakers work to fix a budget hole of $215 million dollars during the special session, frustrated state workers are calling on the legislature to increase their pay.

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association wants a $7,500 per person raise provided to state workers. Executive Director Sterling Zearley says most of the 34,000 employees in Oklahoma haven’t seen a pay increase in ten years and earn 25 percent less than those in the private sector.

"We always hear legislators say how much they appreciate state employees and that's all fine and good, but you know what—they need to pay them and retain them. There's $120 million dollars worth of turnover rate. State employees are getting tired of saying 'we appreciate you, we appreciate you'—that can just go so far. You need to compensate them appropriately."

Zearley says below market pay has caused the state to lose 4,000 employees in the past five years, marking a more than 20 percent turnover rate.

A $7,500 pay raise for 34,000 state employees would cost the state an estimated $255 million dollars.

Michael Cross is the host of KOSU's Morning Edition.
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