Oklahoma prison guards, social workers among thousands of state workers to get raises Tuesday


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OKLAHOMA CITY — About 11,000 workers from 23 state agencies will be getting a boost in pay under one of 60 new laws taking effect Tuesday, the first day of the state's 2015 fiscal year.

Many of the laws that take effect Tuesday are budget-related measures that direct various agencies to make certain expenditures. Among them is the omnibus general appropriations bill, which divvies up the state's $7.1 billion budget.

Under the pay raise bill, workers at 23 state agencies will receive raises ranging from 6.25 percent to 8 percent. The bill targets the most underpaid state workers such as prison guards, social workers, nurses, case managers and workers at public safety agencies, according to a recent study on employee compensation.

"It's great because there will be more money in my paycheck to help with the bills," said Jess Callahan, a social worker and father of two from Choctaw County who earns about $31,000 annually. "We're grateful to have anything at this point; it's been such a long drought."

Callahan says he hopes the extra $200 per month he will receive before taxes will allow him and his wife to put more money into college savings for his children.

State employees have not received an across-the-board pay increase since 2006, and a study released last year showed state workers in Oklahoma earn about 7 percent less in pay and benefits than the private market.

David Ramsey, a training officer at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington, said he hopes the pay raise for prison guards will help attract more employees to the agency, which routinely requires officers to work double shifts and 60-hour work weeks.

"We really hope it helps with recruiting and getting more officers on staff," Ramsey said.

A separate measure that takes effect Tuesday increases the salaries of judges and district attorneys. Pay raises also were approved this year for the roughly 800 Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers, but those raises won't take effect until January.

Another new law requires every public school district in the state to have the Pledge of Allegiance recited at least once a week. Current law requires districts to inform students that they are not required to participate in the pledge.


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