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District attorneys argue for pay hikes


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The state's 27 district attorneys want the Oklahoma Legislature to authorize pay raises. The prosecutors say it's the last chance until 2007 to increase their salaries.

The state constitution prohibits elected officials from taking pay raises during their terms of office, said Suzanne McClain Atwood, executive coordinator of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council.

Prosecutors are up for re-election this year and will take office in January 2003.

``This is the last opportunity the Legislature will have to adjust our salaries until the end of the next term, which would be January 2007,'' said John Wampler, council president and the district attorney for Jackson, Kiowa, Tillman and Washita counties.

District attorneys earn $85,000 per year and are seeking an increase to $103,109, Atwood said. The current salary went into effect in January 1999 and was an increase from $71,663.

Atwood said prosecutors understand the state's current financial situation.

The state faces a revenue shortfall of $95.5 million through June 30, the end of the fiscal year. The shortfall occurred because tax collections _ mainly the gross production tax on natural gas _ are producing less money than originally estimated.

Many prosecutors could use existing office funds to pay for the raise for the remainder of the fiscal year, Wampler said.

``There are some extra funds around, maybe carried over to the next year as a result of unforeseen circumstances,'' he said. ``Most of the districts expect they can figure out some way to handle it for this.''

The raises would cost $304,231 through the rest of the fiscal year, Atwood said.

For a full year, the cost would be $608,462, she said.
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