State House Representative Questions Pay Raises

Wednesday, February 18th 2009, 6:29 pm
By: News 9

By Jon Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A state House representative calls recent pay raises handed out by a Republican leader, ridiculous.

Democratic House Representative Richard Morrisette says the raises are sending the wrong message. And he has now drafted a House resolution in hopes of doing away with the salary increases.

With the state facing a budget deficit in the hundreds of millions of dollars Rep. Morrisette considers the pay raises, those given to Senior positions, a slap in the face to people of Oklahoma, but Republicans say Morrisette is only painting half the picture.

"This is excessive, absolutely excessive," Morrisette said.

What Rep. Morrisette is referring to is a pay increase that the leader of the Senate, pro-tem Glen Coffee, gave to a member of his staff.

"Giving these type of pay raises to certain individuals is wrong, it's just wrong," Morrisette said.

The pay raise Rep. Morrisette is upset over is one that was given to former republican House member Fred Morgan. Morgan now serves as the Senate republican's senior policy advisor, who saw his salary go from $125,000 to $140,000.

"I've given you a statement and I stand by the statement and that's all I'm going to say about the employment issues," Sen. Coffee said.

Sen. Coffee denied to answer question regarding Morgan's salary, but in a statement says he considers the raises given to seven members of his staff "well earned" and "well deserved." He also says, "the raises and new hire were granted prior to our awareness of the current budget crisis."

"That is a weaken argument; he must have just thought that one up off the cuff," Morrisette said. "He knew what the budget was going to be like. They knew back the first of December."

Sen. Coffee says even with the salary increases, compared to when the democrats had control of the Senate four years ago, the pro-tem then was paying his staff over $100,000 more than what Coffee is paying his staff.

Rep. Morrisette also called into question a new hire by House Speaker Chris Benge, a position that pays $76,000 a year. But Benge says he has also left two positions unfilled due to the current economic conditions.