STATE PAY plan sent to governor

Thursday, May 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A $36 million state worker pay bill that boosts the salaries of state correctional officers up to $4,000 a year was sent to Gov. Frank Keating Wednesday.

The measure, which was approved without opposition by the Senate on Tuesday, was passed by the House with only one dissenting vote.

The bill sets aside almost $18 million for Department of Corrections workers and $6.3 million in selected increases to relieve high turnover rates among nurses, other health care employees and some Department of Transportation technicians.

Although most of the state's 34,000 employees will not get a pay raise, the state will pick up an additional 25 percent of insurance costs, a $9 million item.

The plan falls far short of the 8 percent across-the-board pay raise the OPEA sought in February for all state workers. That would have cost $78 million.

The $4,000 raises will go to almost 3,000 Department of Corrections and Pardon and Parole Board employees, including 2,333 correctional officers who are among the lowest paid in the country. Their pay would go up 21 percent.

``They deserve better than being at the very bottom,'' said Rep. Kenneth Corn, D-Howe.

``It's a dangerous job. And we're paying them barely a minimum wage,'' said Rep. Wayne Pettigrew, R-Edmond.

``These people put their lives on the line,'' Pettigrew said.

Calls for a pay raise for correctional officers were fueled by the stabbing death last year of a guard at the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite.

The increase for prison security personnel is $1,000 more than proposed in Gov. Frank Keating's budget.

Rep. Bill Graves, R-Oklahoma City, cast the only no vote. Graves said he supports raises for security personnel but that the appropriation will diminish the possibility of tax cuts this year.

Under the legislative proposal, other classified DOC employees and parole investigators would get $2,000 extra a year; nurses would get a $2,100 increase, other direct health care assistants would get $1,550 and transportation technicians would receive $1,300.