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Governor’s veto insult to state employees who worked throughout pandemic

OKLAHOMA CITY –State Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, said he was shocked and disappointed after the veto of his Senate Bill 176 Tuesday by Gov. Kevin Stitt. The bill, which was approved unanimously by both the Senate and House, would have extended the deadline passed last session temporarily increasing annual leave accumulation limits and allowing state employees to carry over their unused annual leave above the state allowed cap due to the COVID-19 pandemic until the end of Fiscal Year 2022. SB 176 would have extended this benefit through the end of FY’23. 

In his veto message, Stitt said the legislation would negatively impact taxpayers and create a continuing fiscal burden on state agencies – an argument Simpson said is completely false and inconsiderate of the state’s 33,000 hardworking state employees.  Fiscal analysis of the bill shows very little to no fiscal impact on taxpayers or state agencies. 

“I’m beyond upset and confused by Governor Stitt vetoing this measure to protect the annual leave of thousands of state employees who were unable to take off and use their legally earned time during the pandemic,” Simpson said. “While most of the state was shut down in 2020 and parts of 2021, our state employees worked even longer hours to provide critical state services to the citizens of Oklahoma. This bill simply recognized the unique circumstances of the pandemic and would have given these public servants one more year to use their vacation time. This is the least the state of Oklahoma can do to express our gratitude for the incredible dedication shown by these frontline professionals throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Sadly, the work of our state employees has often been overlooked through this ordeal, and Governor Stitt’s veto is the ultimate insult to them. This bill will not negatively impact taxpayers or state agencies unless our state employees quit from the governor’s inconsiderate veto and unfair treatment.”

Under current law, state employees can accrue a set amount of annual leave based on their years of service. Once the cap is surpassed, the employee has until December 31 to use any excess annual leave, or it is lost. For state employees with less than five years of service, the limit is 240 hours, and those with five or more years of service can accrue up to 480 hours. Due to working extended hours and weekends and then not being able to take off due to staff shortages, COVID-19 quarantines, and other issues, many state employees will be forced to lose hundreds of hours of annual leave on June 30 when FY’22 ends.  SB 176 would have provided state employees one more year to spend their excess annual leave.

House Veterans Committee chair Tommy Hardin, R-Madill, also explained that among the many affected state employees were those serving Oklahoma’s veterans.

“I am deeply disappointed in the Governor's veto of SB 176. The state employees who worked during a very critical time in our history and weren’t able to take their earned leave are now wrongly being punished for serving the people of Oklahoma,” Hardin said. “Among those affected by this veto are medical professionals at our state veterans’ homes. During the pandemic and the subsequent variants of COVID-19, those dedicated professionals worked long hours to take care of our aging heroes. This veto is disgraceful.”

Oklahoma Public Employee Association (OPEA) Executive Director Sterling Zearley also shared his disappointment.

“We are disappointed that SB 176 was vetoed. Oklahoma state employees have been stretched thinner than ever before since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Therefore, many employees have been unable to use their earned leave due to the critical staffing levels paired with the pandemic response,” Zearley said.


For more information, contact:  Sen. Simpson: (405) 521-5607 or