Pension Reform on Legislative Agenda

One of the most important legislative sessions for state employees will convene February 7 at the state capitol. Sixty bills have been filed to change public employee pension funds.

States across the nation are looking for solutions to the public pension funding crisis. Last year, several states cut retiree cost-of-living-adjustment assumptions, raised the retirement age, and increased contributions for participants. In most states, the changes applied to new hires only, with current employees and retirees still maintaining their benefits.

In Oklahoma, the fight will be about COLAs for retirees. Last year, for the first time in almost twenty years, the legislature failed to provide a COLA to public pension retirees in an election year. Several bills have been filed to eliminate or seriously hamper the legislature’s ability to grant COLAs for retirees.

“OPERS retirees have an average annual benefit of less than $15,000 per year, which is the lowest of any other pension system in the state,” said OPEA Policy and Research Director Trish Frazier. “With benefits based on salaries that are 16 percent below market, retirees must have COLAs to keep up with increasing costs of medication, food and fuel.”

Legislation to Watch

Below are some of the bills OPEA will be watching this session. Shell bills, which are only titles with no language, are not included in this list. Watch the OPEA website for updates to the list of bills.

HB 2057 (Rep. Lewis Moore): Prohibits cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for retirees in the state’s pension systems until the funding level of the system is at least 85 percent.

HB 2132 (Speaker Kris Steele) and SB 891 (Sen. Mike Mazzei): These bills remove COLAs from the definition of “non-fiscal retirement bill,” which requires that the legislature to provide funding for COLAs. With the serious budget situation facing the state, this legislation would eliminate COLAs for the foreseeable future.

SB 787 (Sen. Mike Mazzei) and SB 806 (Sen,. Josh Brecheen): These bills lower the retirement benefits of elected officials, bringing them more in line with the benefits state employees receive.

SB 810 (Sen. Clark Jolley): Transfers the assets of CompSource to the Teachers Retirement System to help pay for the unfunded liability of the system.

SB 811 (Sen. Clark Jolley): Transfers the assets of GRDA to the Oklahoma Public Retirement System to help pay for the unfunded liability of the system.

HB 1907 and HB 1950 (Rep. Mike Jackson): Provides a four percent COLA to OPERS retirees. (HB 1907 and 1950 are OPEA requested bills.)
For Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit Terms click here.
For Pension Actions in Other States click here.

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