For Immediate Release: March 3, 2011
Senate Pensions Committee Gains Bi-Partisan
Support for Proposals;
Legislators continue to work on a plan that will address Oklahoma’s $16 billion of unfunded pension liability. The Senate Select Committee on Pensions met Thursday to discuss major reforms to the system and listen to input from experts within various pensions affected by the current system. The Senate is targeting reforms that will guarantee current workers receive all of the benefits that were promised them when they entered the system.
Among the ideas presented, committee members applauded a plan to require that cost of living adjustments, or COLA’s, be funded before they can be implemented. Actuarial analysis determines that Oklahoma’s unfunded teacher pension liability would drop from $10.4 billion to $7.5 billion immediately.
Committee members agreed that employees deserve to have COLA’s and that they equally deserve to have COLA’s that are funded.
Chair of the committee, Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, said that Oklahoma’s dedicated teachers, state employees, police officers and firefighters deserve to have legislation that addresses the issue without taking away promises that were previously made. “We are going to honor the contract we have with current employees,” said Mazzei.
Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, said that Oklahoma has an opportunity to put our state pensions on a road to solvency and be the envy of the nation. “We are coming together with a consensus that we cannot continue to put our state workers in this position,” said Burrage. “We are addressing this issue with respect to the workers and the taxpayer and I appreciate the honesty and frank discussions each side has presented.”
Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, noted that of the state’s six pension plans, four were in reasonably good shape. “The firefighters and teachers retirement systems are the two that require the closest attention,” Crain said. “Senator Mazzei’s committee is working to keep what’s good in our pension plans and to correct what isn’t.”
Goals of the Select Committee on Pensions include:
• Reduce Oklahoma’s unfunded pension liability