BY BRIAN RENEGAR
‘Twas the night before sine die and all through my apartment, not a creature was stirring, not even my grandsons, Reece and Carsen, who will serve as my personal pages on the last day of session. As I awoke at 2:30 in the morning, I pondered over an hour what had gone on at the state Capitol the previous week and a half.
It all started with a bill passed earlier in session that would give the state troopers a raise, which passed unanimously on the House floor and with heavy favor in the Senate. The House Democrats had actually asked for [in the budget] an additional raise for Department of Corrections’ officers, as well as a one-time bonus for state employees. All were left out of the budget.
Because of the obvious heat from the Tulsa World, the Daily Oklahoman and Democrats, the speaker called the commissioner of DPS and said he was going to increase the troopers’ clothing allowance and pay for it with a previous passed bill to increase driver license fees to increase the number of drivers’ license examiners.
The commissioner thanked the speaker but graciously declined the offer. It was too late – the speaker had already put out a press release that he hadn’t left the troopers out but had given them a miniscule clothing allowance raise.
Now you have to realize there are 15 municipalities in Oklahoma that start their patrolmen out at a higher starting salary than starting troopers!
Then late on Thursday of the next to last week, the Senate passed out of committee two measures to give $40 million each [starting in 2015] to go to OKC for the Indian Cultural Museum and to Tulsa for the New Pop Culture Museum. The pro tem of the Senate talked to House Minority Leader Scott Inman about the House Democrats’ support. Leader Inman’s reply was that unless the increase in salaries for DOC officers, state troopers and state employees were included, the Democrats would not support these measures.
During the General Conference Committee on Appropriations meeting on the Cultural Center appropriations, Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-OKC, asked how we were giving tourism dollars to OKC when the DOC, troopers and state employees were left out. Co-chairman Tom Newell, R-Seminole, threw the governor under the bus by saying in committee that the governor has refused to approve any pay raises.
Then came the horrendous Moore Tornado. The troopers responded as they always do, just as they did three weeks ago at the OKC marathon. The governor, speaker and pro tem were seeing mounting pressure and they “found” an outlet to reverse their stance and each put out a press release, stating that they were in full support of a trooper pay raise, due to their response to the Moore disaster!
So now, will it take a riot at a state prison and possibly loss of a guard’s life for DOC officials to obtain any type of salary increase?
Just sayin’ …
– Brian Renegar, a McAlester Democrat, represents District 17 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives