We're scratching our heads wondering why legislators would approve raises for private prison employees instead of raises for state correctional employees.

State Rep. J.J. Humphrey, R-Lane, said he’s asked Gov. Kevin Stitt to veto part of House Bill 4160. The measure calls for nearly $1.2 million in taxpayer funds to be spent to equalize employee pay at the contracted private correctional facilities statewide.

The measure passed the state House 98-0 and the state Senate 42-1.

The whole idea is ludicrous. We can't pay our state employees enough, but we shouldn't pay someone who works for a private business. 

State Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, who authored the measure, said the Legislature was trying to equalize pay to ensure private prisons are adequately staffed.

Sounds like staffing is the problem of a private business. What about the staffing at state-run correctional centers? Those are the people who deserve the raises. They are woefully understaffed. They are underpaid.

How many private businesses does the state intend to pay salaries for? 

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections also manages a meat processing center, a food processing plant, a dairy/milk processing facility, an egg distribution warehouse, and two food distribution warehouses. These production facilities provide food for inmates. Is the state going to fund ranchers, farmers and grocery stores to level their playing fields? 

Of course not. But if the state contracts with private prisons, those private entities should be paying their own bills, and the state should pay state employees better than they are now. 

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