Contact: Sheridan Betts
Phone: (405) 724-2464
OCPA offers solution for 35-percent legislative pay raise
OKLAHOMA CITY (May 21, 2020)—Oklahoma lawmakers are poised to receive a 35-percent increase in their taxpayer-funded salaries this November at a time when thousands of taxpayers have lost their jobs due to the oil and gas downturn as well as governments’ response to the coronavirus outbreak. Lawmakers have said they have no choice because the raise was mandated by the constitutionally created Legislative Compensation Board.
Today, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs unveiled a proposal that would resolve the issue.
“Many legislators say they don’t want the pay raise at a time when so many of their constituents are suffering, but feel their hands are tied,” said Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. “But if constitutional requirements are binding lawmakers, they can give voters the chance to change the Oklahoma Constitution.”
Small said lawmakers still have time this session or can convene in special session to approve a joint resolution that will place a constitutional amendment before voters before the raises go into effect. That amendment would simply freeze legislative pay at its current level for two more years.
Any additional election costs associated with the proposed amendment could be covered by reducing egregious corporate welfare tax breaks, such as the millions now designated to subsidize the production of movies that few people ever see or that embarrass Oklahoma.
“Where there is a will, there is a way,” Small said. “If lawmakers truly don’t want these massive pay raises, they can make it possible for voters to stop the raises.”
In the meantime, Small urged members of the Legislature to individually pledge not to accept the additional pay and return the excess funding to the state.
Whether starting today or in special session, the joint resolution can be introduced and approved in a matter of days.