, Muskogee, OK

December 17, 2013

Keep compensation in balance

— Legislators’ top priority in revamping state employees’ compensation should be to ensure workers are not harmed and that Oklahoma remains competitive in the job market.

It would appear Oklahoma is at a disadvantage when attempting to hire employees.

Private sector employers pay their workers more than 7 percent more in salary.

However, a recent study shows Oklahoma state workers’ lower wages are offset by better-than-average  health and retirement benefits.

Lower salary is made up by more generous benefits.

The two go hand-in-hand when job candidates consider employment offers.

State legislators are considering several changes in employee compensation.

We agree the state should change its retirement systems to better match what is offered in the private sector.

Legislators are considering shifting from pension plans to a defined-contribution system such as a 401(k).

That’s a good idea as long as current state employees’ compensations are not ravaged in the process.

The study, according to The Associated Press, also recommends:

• Pay hikes for targeted workers and a performance-based pay initiative.

• Changing employee benefit packages.

• Discouraging the use of across-the-board pay increases or salaries that are covered under state statute.

Those are good recommendations.

State workers may make less than their counterparts in the private sector, but good benefits help balance that inequity.

Legislators should remember that balance when making changes to employees’ compensation packages.