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Rep. Martin: “DOC workers not compensated fairly”

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
May 3, 2013
 

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Governor Mary Fallin and top legislative leaders reach an agreement on the budget for next fiscal year, including increases for education, Department of Human Services and mental health services. But the Department of Corrections asked for a $66 million increase – it got nothing, and all state employees will go another year without an across the board raise. I talked with Representative Scott Martin, (R – Norman) Chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee Friday morning about the budget.

State appropriations for education are on the rise, up about 91 million dollars. But new estimates show schools will take at least a $50 million hit because of State Question 766. Do you think education gets enough money to keep up with growth and new reforms?

“Education was the number one priority for the House this year. I’m extremely excited about that 91 million dollars. Matter of fact, it essentially makes for about 43% of all the growth revenue we had to spend this year. So I think that’s fairly significant.

“In regards to some of the lost revenue that they are projecting they’re going to experience this year,  that’s an area that I know we are looking very closely at. But unfortunately right now, no one has a really good number. I’ve heard anywhere between 30 million and over 100 million. So I think it’s extremely speculative right now. And one that we’re going to have to keep a close eye on as we get past the session. But for now, I think we can very proud of the 91 million dollars of new revenue…Something I know will be put to good use across the state in our school districts.”

Another department in the news lately…the Department of Corrections gets no new money. This despite nearly 40 percent of their positions going unfilled. There is controversy for the Department related to underreporting of money in accounts  – they have at least 18 million dollars. But is the entire Department getting punished for the actions of a few at the top?

“Well it’s certainly an area of deep concern. I know for us in the House, we have not only passed a pay raise bill earlier in session, we had carried money in our budget to give Corrections an increase, but with revelation of, I don’t want to say mismanagement, but with the revelation of some issues at DOC and some of these revolving funds, I think it was wise to take a step back.

“And unfortunately, those that do feel the largest brunt when we do that are those front line employees who have a monumental job. Day in and day out, our correctional officers or other DOC employees are coming to a very difficult work environment, doing an extremely hard job, and I know they’re not getting compensated very fairly.

“I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to do anything in that regard. But I know that we’re going to take an extra look at those revolving funds to ensure that that money is getting managed correctly. So before we start putting more money in the agency, we want to make sure that what they have, which I’ve heard its anywhere close to 22 million dollars in revolving funds, is being spent correctly and not being mismanaged. I think that’s the right thing to do, not only for those employees but for taxpayers.”

The Legislative Service Agency gets 5 million dollars to renovate some offices at the Capitol, but the House and Senate will get a million dollar increase each for operational costs. What kind of message does that send to state workers who haven’t seen an across the board increase in nearly seven years ?

“Well certainly that’s not an across the board raises at all. Matter of fact, the House and the Senate, we took during the recession when cuts were going on, both bodies took the maximum amount of cuts that any agencies would have sustained throughout that time. Just yesterday I heard that the House itself, if you added up all the cuts, it’s like 40% of our budget. We are certainly not unlike any agency out there, we’re doing a lot more with a lot less.

“Just last night before I left, I was talking to one of our workers in the House, and she was telling that just in her particular division, there used to be 6 employees and now there’s three and they’re doing the same amount of work. And so we are making a critical investment in those areas.

“There’s two areas, the House and the Senate and if you throw in the Legislative Services Bureau that are funded purely through state appropriations. There’s no fee revenue, no fee income, we’ve got security issues that have been brought up just recently that need to be addressed. We’ve got staffing levels, not only levels but what they pay.

“And then you mentioned the renovations. With the Supreme Court having moved out of the Capitol within the last year, we now have space down there that needs to be utilized not only for our meeting rooms, but for other meetings that the public can utilize.

“I think these are things that people will be excited about once they’re completed, but I think those were wise budget items.”

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