The OPEA office will be closed for Veterans Day, Wednesday November 11th. The office will resume regular office hours on Thursday, November 12th. Please join the OPEA board and staff in remembering our veterans who served our country. We especially thank OPEA members who are currently serving or have served in the past. Thank you all for your service.
Friends and colleagues of Ron Wilson are invited to celebrate his life and legacy at the Will Rogers Theatre, 4322 N. Western, Oklahoma City on Tuesday, November 10th from 5:30 to 9:30. Funeral arrangements have not been announced. Ron had many friends at OPEA, throughout and outside of state goverment and all are welcome to come share a "Ron" story.
OPEA Mourns The Loss of Member Ron Wilson
We lost a good friend yesterday. OPEA member Ron Wilson was killed at his home in OKC. Not only was Ron a great OPEA member and talented human resources professional, he was simply a kind and concerned person.
As director of talent management at OMES' human capital management division, Ron was involved in nearly every aspect of human resources for state agencies but he always took the time to help OPEA staff and members our with our question and other needs.
As an OPEA member, he would provide guidance on HR trends and was a wonderful resource that we would call on when trying to understand compensation, job classification or merit rules. Ron was our "go to" guy who was always willing and more than capable. He helped us and smiled while he did. As a member, he educated OPEA board and staff when asked and participated in several of our conventions.
As a friend, Ron was loved by many. He had friends from his hometown, McAlester, from OSU, one of his alma maters and from state agencies like the Okla Health Care Authority and Department of Corrections where he worked earlier in his career or OMES where he served at the time of his passing.
One of his friends posted on Facebook yesterday that when Ron asked "How are you doing?", you knew that he truly was asking about you and he just wasn't saying that. The staff at OPEA can attest to that. In the many times he visited our office, he always asked and meant it.
If Ron had not heard from OPEA staff over a time period, he would call the office just to check on staff. He didn't have to. He had enough on his plate, but he truly wanted to know how we were doing. We're sure our staff is not the only ones who got these calls.
The state will miss Ron's expertise. His friends and coworkers, especially those at OMES, will miss his caring nature and dry wit. OPEA's members and staff offer our condolences to Ron's family, friends and colleagues and while we celebrate a kind man and a life well-lived we pray for comfort for those who miss him.
Tax Incentive Review Is Only The First Step
Recently, OPEA members asked about two pieces of legislation passed into law last session regarding the evaluation of tax incentives. While we appreciate this first step taken by the Governor’s office, Senate and House members in the passage of HB 2182 and SB 806 and OPEA supported their passage, they are only a first step in determining whether tax credits and incentives are helping Oklahoma's economy.
HB2182 requires all tax incentives to be evaluated by a newly formed Incentive Evaluation Commission at least once every four years and SB806 requires that new incentives have measurable goals. OPEA supported passage of these laws but believe they are only a first step in determining whether tax credits and incentives are helping Oklahoma's economy.
The first law, HB2182 effective November 1st, establishes an independent group to look at our current incentives and reccomend whether they should continue, be modified or repealed. The second law requires measurable goals for any new tax incentives and does not directly impact those incentives already in place. While OPEA appreciates this initial step, much work is needed to make sure potential revenue not currently collected due to ineffective tax incentives is made available for state services. These laws will not increase revenue in 2016 and only have the ability to make recommendations in the future. The ultimate responsibility for revising or eliminating ineffective incentives lies with lawmakers.
The Commission will be supported by The Office of Management and Enterprise Services' (OMES) staff with help from the Department of Commerce and the Tax Commission and its members include a certified public accountant appointed by the Oklahoma Accountancy Board, the president of the Oklahoma Professional Economic Development Council or his or her designee, an internal auditor appointed by the Governor, an economist from an Oklahoma college or university appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate, a lay person who is not an elected official appointed by the Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the Chairman of the Oklahoma Tax Commission or his or her designee who is also a member of the Oklahoma Tax Commission, the OMES director or his or her designee who is an OMES employee and the Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce or his or her designee who is an Oklahoma Department of Commerce employee. The Tax Commission, Commerce and OMES appointees will be ex officio and nonvoting positions.
The law states that the commission shall ensure that each incentive is evaluated at least once every four years unless the Commission determines that the incentive is exempt from evaluation because it has a minimal fiscal impact.
By January 1, 2016, and by January 1 thereafter the Commission shall develop a four-year schedule for evaluating incentives. The evaluation schedule must be made so that the incentives having the highest fiscal impact to the state revenue system are evaluated before other incentives. In determining whether a program is an incentive, the Commission may consider legislative intent and may also consider whether the program is promoted as an incentive by any state agency. For each incentive, the Commission shall attempt to identify the goal or goals of the incentive.
Each evaluation shall include the following: An estimate of the economic and fiscal impact of the incentive, the results of the incentive for Oklahoma's economy as a whole, including both positive direct and indirect impacts and any negative effects on other Oklahoma businesses and a comparison to the results of other incentives or other economic development strategies with similar goals.
It will also assess whether adequate protections are in place to ensure the fiscal impact of the incentive does not increase substantially beyond the state's expectations in future years, assess whether the incentive is being administered effectively and assess whether the incentive is achieving its goals.
The Commission must include recommendations for how Oklahoma can most effectively achieve the incentive's goals, including recommendations on whether the incentive should be retained, reconfigured or repealed recommend any changes to state policy, rules, or statutes that would allow the incentive to be more easily or conclusively evaluated in the future.
OPEA expects the members of the commission to be named before the end of this calendar year. However, the first report will not be made available until December 1 2016. The earliest lawmakers could take action on discontinuing or revising any incentives would in early 2017.
It will be crucial that those named are truly independent and have the freedom to make recommendations based on facts and not be subject to outside pressure. OPEA members will need to pay close attention to the commission's finding and communicate our wishes to lawmakers.
While these laws are steps in the right direction, The ultimate responsibility for changing or repealing incentives deemed ineffective by the commission will still be the responsibility of the legislature and governor. Rather than this process, some states have taken an approach that "sunsets" all incentives but allows lawmakers to continue those that are effective. Lawmakers will need to exhibit the will to act on the commission's findings even if those findings are politically unpopular.
OPEA members must be diligent in seeing that work done by this committee achieves its purpose. If it finds incentives that are not achieving goals, Oklahoma's lawmakers must take steps to discontinue or revise the incentives. Oklahoma's need for resources to provide services to our citizens depends on having sufficient resources to efficiently and effectively administer the programs.
State employees and agencies have the responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer funds. Oklahoma's lawmakers also now have the responsibility to make sure our state is only keeping in place those incentives that show they are achieving their goals.
Another Budget Cut for State Agencies?
It looks like Oklahoma is headed for another tight budget year in FY 2017. Once again, lawmakers are saying that our state’s revenue is not keeping up with the cost of providing core services to Oklahoma’s citizens and business. This year’s shortfall was around $600 million and the state was required to use “one-time money” in addition to the cuts made by state agencies to balance the budget. Most of the recent fiscal years have been “budget cut years”, so the declaration for agencies to prepare for another round of cuts comes as no surprise to the hard working men and women provide services.
When the legislative session begins in February, lawmakers will determine how much money to appropriate to state agencies for the 2017 fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016.
In a recent statement Gov. Fallin said, “I’m asking every agency to start planning for potential spending cuts and to develop a strategy that protects essential services” she said. “It’s important we get ahead of this issue as we enter a difficult budget year. Families and businesses tighten their belts during lean times; our state agencies can do the same”
Because state agencies have reduced or eliminated non-essential expenses during the last several rounds of budget cuts, there is not much more room to cut expenses without directly cutting or eliminating programs and services that our friends and neighbors access.
Her office talked about eliminating non-essential out of state travel and promotional items to market services agencies provide or cutting back on membership to professional organizations. Many agencies have already taken these steps during previous years’ budget cuts. The amount saved by further cutting these types of expenses will help some but will not come close to balancing next year’s budget.
Agencies must not balance their budget solely by reducing their staff. If they are forced to make cuts to balance their budget, reductions should be spread across their agency. That means they must reduce provider payments and cut, or eliminate private contracts in addition to any reductions in staff. Agencies must also protect the front line workers who are crucial to providing services. A reduction in the number of workers who work in our prisons, veterans’ centers, roads and highways would be detrimental to our state. Having fewer workers to inspect restaurants, provide services to seniors or protect vulnerable children and adults would also have dire consequences.
If you take a hard look at state services, there really is not an area of state government that can absorb significant cuts without hurting the services they provide.
Also, if cuts are necessary common education and higher education should also share some of the burden. The responsibility to balance next year’s budget must not fall solely on the backs of state agencies, their staffs or the people they serve.
Oklahoma must also review the amount of money that is spent outside the legislative appropriation process. Millions of dollars are never made available to lawmakers appropriate to state agencies for their services
Part of this review would be looking at Oklahoma’s corporate tax incentives to determine if those credits are accomplishing their goals. Using tax incentives to attract business and industry can be a great economic tool for a state. However, Oklahoma does not review the credits that it gives to see if they are beneficial to our economy. These credits have been discussed several times over the past few years, but little action has been taken. It is time to review those credits.
We don’t know how much the shortfall will be for next year but we can be certain it is going to be a significant blow to our state budget. Regardless of the amount, it must not be the sole responsibility of state employees to balance the budget. If cuts are made, those cuts must be absorbed by private service providers as well.
Two Candidates Vying For Retiree West Regional Director Seat
Retiree members in the Western Region will soon be receiving ballots to elect a retiree regional director for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2016.. This position represents retired members in approximately the western half of Oklahoma. Two candidates, Cheryl Horsley and Jann Ensz are running for the position which also represents Western Region members on the OPEA board of directors.
Voting may be done by telephone or online. Instructions will accompany the ballot or voters who have questions may contact Trish Frazier at 405 524-6764. Below are the candidate biographies that they submitted to OPEA when they filed for the race.
Education: Bachelor Degree in Music, worked at NORCE for 38 years; retired in 2014.
OPEA Awards: Volunteer of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award
Current Chair of the Policy, Procedure and Platform Committees.
Previous member of various other committees for OPEA, including Executive Committee.
Held various chapter offices and served as a Board Member for Region 3/DHS Council for over six years.
I have been a long time, very active member of OPEA since the early 1980s. I have years of experience working in and with OPEA—most of those years as a leader/officer. I have given countless hours of my time to further OPEA’s agenda and have attended lobby days at the Capitol and have worked in legislative campaigns to further OPEA’s influence in the Legislature.
My priority is to get our retirees active and involved in OPEA. We have many issues that need to be addressed by the legislature and will need a very strong retiree voice in order to accomplish this goal. My main goals will be to work on obtaining cost of living raises, increasing the insurance subsidy and ensuring that our retirement system stays financially sound.
I am Cheryl Horsley your current Retiree West Director, a position I have held for the past five years and wish to continue. I have been retired for over 20 years so am well aware of the concerns of recent and older retirees. I have met with and continue to meet with legislators on behalf of state retirees, trying to increase and preserve retirement and insurance benefits. I was instrumental in the formation of and getting board approval for a Retiree Committee within OPEA. I have attended all Board Meetings, OPEA Conventions and Lobby Days during my time as Retiree Director as well as many other area meetings around the state. I will continue to represent state retirees in our fight to improve retirement benefits. I encourage any retiree with ideas or concerns to feel free to contact me. I am your voice on the OPEA board and want to:
· Return control of retiree cost-of-living increases to the OPERS Board.
· Encourage more state retirees to become involved in the legislative process.
· Inform state retirees of issues that arise, in order to move forward with a united front.
· Retirees can be a force to be reckoned with.
What Services Will Be Cut in 2016?
If next year's budget is as bad as leaders are saying, maybe it's time to look at raising revenue. Some forecasters say that the state's 2016 budget shortfall could be around one billion dollars. State agencies have had their budgets slashed the past several year and have reduced services and overhead to meet the budget. There is no more room to "cut" many state agencies unless critical services are eliminated.
It may be that Oklahoma is past the point of reducing services and to the point of eliminating services...so, lawmakers may have a tough choice to make. Does Oklahoma stop services to the elderly, the disabled, vulnerable children? Do we stop repairing roads and bridges? Do we cease services to veterans or close state parks that bring people and dollars to towns across Oklahoma? Do we reduce the number of troopers and other law enforcement officials who watch our streets and highways? Do we stop incarcerating violent offenders because we can't pay for the correctional centers or stop monitoring offenders who are on parole? Do we stop inspecting restaurants or other businesses that impact our lives?
These are just some of the scenarios that lawmakers must consider if the budget remains bleak and they choose not to find a way to increase funds in the state coffers. It is time for all state employees and retirees to find their state senator and representative and have this conversation on a face-to-face basis. Get to know your lawmakers and have this discussion soon. Ask them the tough questions, they work for you.
Steve Paris Presented OPEA Lifetime Achievement Award
Long-time OPEA member Steve Paris was presented the OPEA Lifetime Achievement Award at the association's 40th annual convention last Saturday. Paris, who recently retired after a long career in state service, is a former OPEA president and currently serves as chairman of the OPEA Political Action Committee. Paris also sits on the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System advisory board.
Steve was nominated for the award by former OPEA director Pat Hall and was joined at the banquet by many friends as well as his wife and daughter.
Steve Paris Accepts His Award as Pat Hall Look On
Lynn Hodges Selected Past Presidents Award as 2015 Retiree of the Year
The 2015 "Past Presidents Retiree of the Year" is Lynn Hodges. Lynn is retired from the Oklahoma State Department of Health and has been extremely active in and supportive of OPEA’s retiree committee. As a member of the committee, Lynn has followed retiree issues in Oklahoma and all surrounding states. He has also researched and followed legislation and litigation nationwide allowing the committee to be well-informed regarding any issues pertaining to state retirees. Lynn has attended all retiree committee meetings, several OPEA board meetings, legislative days and met with Rep. Jon Echols, OPEA staff, and board members and was instrumental in obtaining Rep. Echols’ support to author OPEA retiree legislation last session.
Lynn Hodges accepts the award from OPEA President Jess Callahan. Also pictured are Don Keenan, Dixie Jackson, Cheryl Horsley, Connie Stockton and Steve Paris.
Brandi Poage Chosen 2015 Gaines Stout Member of the Year
The 2015 Gaines Stout Member of the Year award was given to Brandi Poage at this year's annual convention. Brandi is president of the Tulsa Oklahoma Employment Security Commission OPEA chapter and has worked hard during the past year to revive the OESC Chapter after it had gone dormant in the last few years. Previous to serving as president, she was vice president and assumed the responsibilities of president when the chapter president left the agency. Brandi planned several activities for the chapter such as donation drive for the John 3:16 Mission. She has also been active statewide and participated in the convention each year. At her workplace, she has organized several membership recruitment events over the past, and a grievance training workshop.
This annual award is given in honor of one of OPEA's founding members, Gaines Stout, who was instrumental in the founding of OPEA in 1975.
Region Eight Director Tracey Ritz, Brandi Poage and OPEA President Jess Callahan
Frances Mayanja Selected as 2015 Pat Hall Volunteer Of the Year
OPEA member Frances Mayanja an employee of the Office of Juvenile Affairs' Central Oklahoma Juvenile Treatment Center in Tecumseh was selected as the 2015 Pat Hall Volunteer of the Year. Francis works as the Client Advocate of the facility and his dedication to Oklahoma’s troubled youth led him to continue this work at COJC when the Rader Center closed.
Pat Hall (left) and OPEA President Jess Callahan (right) Present Francis Mayanja with the 2015 Volunteer Of The Year Award
As a long-time OPEA member while employed at both facilities Francis has been involved in working with OPEA to resolve issues for employees and the youth they serve. He is willing to work after hours to ensure the success of the chapter and OPEA. He has attended board meetings, OPEA Day at the Capitol and assisted with chapter activities including a cookout for legislators and employees.
In Memory of Commissioner Mark Costello
Members and staff of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association join our fellow Oklahomans in mourning the tragic death of Labor Commissioner Mark Costello.
Commissioner Costello was a tireless worker and was firm in his beliefs. He frequently traveled across the state to meet with business owners and employee and was always willing to sit with OPEA to discuss issues important our state’s working men and women.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, his colleagues in state government and the employees of the Oklahoma Department of Labor. He will be missed.
OPEA TO Hold Special Election
A special election is being held for Regional Director Seats for Region 11 and Retiree West on the OPEA Board of Directors. The candidate filing deadline is August 31 at 5:00 p.m. with the election to be held in September.
The term of office is January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2017. Candidates must have been an OPEA member for at least one year and live in the designated region. Region 11 in the southeast part of the state and is comprised of Choctaw, Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, Pittsburg, and Pushmataha counties. The Retiree West Region comprises of counties west of I35, with the exceptions of Logan, Cleveland, and Garvin.
The board meets in Oklahoma City approximately eight times during the year on Saturdays. In addition, Board members must attend OPEA statewide events, such as convention and OPEA Day at the Capitol. Expenses are reimbursed by the association. Regional directors also work with staff to oversee and develop activities in the region. If you have any questions, email Trish Frazier or call her at 405-524-6764 or 800-880-6732.