The Oklahoma Public Employees Association has announced it is pulling out of the walkout rally at the Capitol.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA) said Thursday its members will no longer participate in the Capitol walkout because education advocates and lawmakers’ focus has shifted from funding all core services to only funding common education.
“State employees have been at the Capitol since April 2 to support all core services, including education. Recent discussions focus solely on education funding and exclude public safety, veterans’ services, mental health, protective services or any other state agency services,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley.
The association said promises are now being made to teachers just to get them out of the Capitol but no promises are being made to state employees. Additionally, there are no discussions about how the legislature plans to dig state government out of the hole it is in.
“Even if lawmakers approve a flat budget for state agencies, the result is the same as a budget cut because agencies’ workloads and costs increase every year. Many state agencies’ budgets have been reduced 30 percent during the past several years yet state employees still serve their communities despite inadequate resources,” he said. “Our agencies need increased funding and state employees need a significant pay raise.”
Zearley said OPEA will continue to advocate during the legislative session as it asks for this year’s state employee pay raise to be increased to $2,500 for each employee, another pay raise next year and an additional $50 million to begin restoring previous state agency cuts.
“State employees tell us the pay raise passed this session will not even cover their insurance premium increases and they need a multi-year pay raise plan,” Zearley said. “They are equally concerned about their agencies’ funding.”
“State employees are angry and will not be ignored. We will continue to ask lawmakers until the end of the session to increase agency funding and improve employee pay,” he said.