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Tax increases, other measures among OPEA recommendations

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Tax increases will be among the recommendations offered next week by the Oklahoma Public Employees Association as a way to deal with the state budget crisis.

The group's regional leaders have been examining tobacco, liquor, sales and fuel taxes and will make a recommendation to the OPEA's board, Gary Jones, executive director of the 10,000-member association, said Thursday.

The group's legislative program also includes a recommendation for a task force study of state employee salaries, changes in employee retirement law and more efficiency in government.

State budget problems will make it difficult to give pay raises this session, the group acknowledges.

According to a report by the Office of Personnel Management, state employee compensation is 11.3 percent below similar jobs in the private sector, Jones said.

Oklahoma has nearly 34,000 state employees, not including college and university employees who are part of the state's higher education system, Jones said. The average salary for a state employee is $32,558.

The OPEA also wants to eliminate political patronage in the state work force.

``In the recent Health Department scandal, all the employees who were indicted or disciplined were given unclassified positions created specifically for them,'' the state employee legislative program states. ``They were not hired under the merit system.''

A merit employee is one who is hired by the state through a competitive hiring process, Jones said.

The OPEA wants to increase the subsidy paid to retired state employees, as well as legislation to establish an evaluation of efficiency and effectiveness of state services and programs.
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