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Competing studies to look at Oklahoma state retirees' pensions

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Redbud trees bloom at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Friday April 04, 2014. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Redbud trees bloom at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Friday April 04, 2014. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

The Oklahoma Legislature will not boost state retirees’ pensions this year, but the House and Senate are already laying the groundwork for a potential clash on the issue next year.

The House Rules Committee on Thursday opted to pursue an actuarial study to get more information about offering a 4% cost-of-living adjustment to retirees, including teachers, firefighters and police, in specific Oklahoma state pension systems.

House lawmakers' actions run counter to that of the Senate, which already advanced plans to study offering a 2% cost-of-living adjustment to some state retirees next year.

The House was firmly on board with a 4% pension adjustment from the beginning and decided to keep going down that route even after the Senate changed course, House Rules Chairman Zack Taylor said.

“The House has always been for a 4% (adjustment) so we just want to have those numbers on what the impact to the systems will be,” he said.

House members were pushing for a pension adjustment this year, but those plans were derailed when the Senate in April punted on House Bill 2304 by Rep. Avery Frix, R-Muskogee, in favor of an actuarial study.

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat said he was surprised the House is moving forward with its own study. It's just the lower chamber's way of boosting the chances of introducing legislation providing for a higher cost-of-living adjustment next year, he said.

"The law, the way I understand it, is if you study a 2% (adjustment), you can’t come in the next year and pass a 4% or 5% or something like that," he said. The Senate actuarial study was a result of Treat's working group on pension reform.

Both actuarial analyses will be complete before Dec. 1, teeing up the Legislature to consider a cost-of-living adjustment again next year.

The studies will determine the dollar amount of a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees and determine the unfunded actuarial accrued liability that would result from the bill.

Retired state employees haven’t seen a cost-of-living adjustment in their pensions since 2008.

Last year, the pension systems gave most retirees a one-time payment that, for many, was equal to 2% of their yearly distribution.

Retirees in six state pension systems were slated to receive a cost of living adjustment under HB 2304.

Those systems are: Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System, the Teachers' Retirement System of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System, Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System and Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges.

Carmen Forman

Carmen Forman covers the state Capitol and governor's office for The Oklahoman. A Norman native and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she previously covered state politics in Virginia and Arizona before returning to Oklahoma. Read more ›

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