Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

For Immediate Release: February 17, 2011

Sen. Mike Mazzei
Sen. Mike Mazzei

Senate Select Committee on Pensions holds first meeting; Lawmakers to address $16 Billion unfunded liability

Senator Mike Mazzei said he was encouraged by Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Pensions, the first for the panel. Mazzei, who chairs the committee, said Oklahoma currently faces an unfunded liability of $16 billion in the state’s six public retirement systems.

“I was very pleased by the active participation of our committee members and by other legislators as well. There is strong bipartisan consensus about the need to turn our pension systems around,” said Mazzei, R-Tulsa. “We heard expert testimony about what other states are doing to strengthen their systems, as well as information on how those alternatives might or might not work for Oklahoma.”

Mazzei said the worst thing that could happen right now is for the state to do nothing and that it was urgent for lawmakers to work together to find solutions. Failing to decrease the unfunded liability could impact the state in numerous ways.

“Failing to act would most certainly result in higher costs on our bond issues, but as we’ve seen elsewhere, Oklahoma could be forced to make unprecedented cuts in services and enact massive tax hikes. We cannot and will not allow that to happen.”

Those testifying to the committee Thursday included Ron Snell, Senior Fellow, State Services Division, National Conference of State Legislatures; David Blatt, Director, Oklahoma Policy Institute; Jonathan Small, Fiscal Policy Director, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs; and Dr. James Wilbanks, Executive Director, Teachers’ Retirement System of Oklahoma. Mazzei said additional meetings will be held in the coming weeks.

“Our goals are two-fold—to secure the expected retirements of our hardworking Oklahoma teachers, police, firefighters and government employees, and also to find ways to make this more efficient for the taxpayers so we can save multiple billions of dollars over the next 10 to 20 years.”

For more information contact:
Sen. Mazzei: (405) 521-5675

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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