Pension Article Causes Alarm

OPEA has received numerous phone calls and e-mails regarding a recent article that appeared on Yahoo News that has caused alarm among state employees. The article reports that Oklahoma’s pension system will be out of money in the year 2020.

OPEA has investigated the issue and found it to not be true and based on flawed research. According to the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, Tom Spencer, this article lumps all of Oklahoma’s retirement systems together and utilizing false assumptions about public pension systems.

“The fact is that there is not a single intellectually defensible study that would support the statement that OPERS will run out of money in the near future,” said Spencer in a statement on the OPERS website. “The OPERS fund could be better funded, but the current assets of OPERS along with continuing contributions fromits members, will keep OPERS solvent for decades to come. The professor’s paper is good at grabbing headlines, but is not very good at providing accurate information to the public.”

Unfortunately, the article comes in the midst of media attention about the retirement systems and their need for funding. The Senate has approved an interim study to investigate transferring state pensions to a defined contribution or 401(k)-type plan. In addition, the future Speaker of the House Kris Steele issued a recent press release calling for pension reform.

“OPEA is working with firefighters, teachers, law enforcement and retiree organizations to ensure the Oklahoma pension systems are strengthened and continue to be a benefit for future generations of public servants,” said OPEA Policy and Research Director Trish Frazier.

“So called ‘pension reform’ will be an issue in the upcoming legislative session,” concluded Frazier. “OPEA will continue monitoring the situation and advocating for secure public pensions. The state cannot shirk its responsibility to workers who have dedicated their careers to state service.”

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