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OKLAHOMA CITY - According to numbers from the Office of State Finance, Oklahomans paid an all-time record for professional services contracts; $230,426,811 for fiscal year 1997.
"While some people are applauding the continuation of a hiring freeze on state jobs, Oklahoma citizens are paying through the nose for outside contractors to fill those job slots," according Senator Lewis Long.
In FY '95 state taxpayers shelled out $145,575,845 for professional service contracts. That number jumped to $170,184,128 in FY '96, and a record $230,426,811 for FY '97.
"While we have seen a reduction in the number of state employees, Oklahomans shouldn't be fooled. The work still has to be done. It's just being done through these outside contracts," said Long, D-Glenpool.
Senator Long said there were several problems with that.
"First of all, these state employees, who are hired competitively, are being replaced with these hires through professional services contracts, which are not competitively bid," explained Long.
"And since these workers are temporary, they are not eligible for state benefits. However the companies they actually work for are getting fat," commented Long.
The typical temporary service agency contract with the state involved office jobs such as clerks, typists and secretaries.
"The truth is, the proponents of these outside contracts haven't really reduced the numbers of employees the state is paying for. It just means these workers aren't getting the benefits they would have to help with such things as medical insurance for themselves and their children. And it means that these outside companies are pocketing the difference," said Long.
Long said the use of contracted manpower has probably more than offset the loss of state FTE since the hiring freeze began. As agencies have fewer workers to handle growing demands for services, they are forced to contract out for work.
"I don't think that's the kind of change that will make our state's economy better or stronger. It just makes things tougher for a lot of Oklahomans, except for the lucky few that are making money off of these outside contracts," noted Long.-30-