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Senate committee passes amended measure for cost of living adjustment for state pension retirees

OKLAHOMA CITY  – A Senate committee has passed a cost of living adjustment for state pension retirees.

Earlier this month, many retired police officers and firefighters headed to the Oklahoma State Capitol, saying they were struggling to make ends meet.

Officials say it had been more than a decade since their retirement checks were given a cost of living adjustment. During that same time frame, inflation has jumped by 26 percent.

The first responders demanded that a state Senate working group approve House Bill 2304, which would give them a 4 percent adjustment.

On Thursday, the Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee passed the measure, with a few changes.

Now, the bill would provide a 2 percent adjustment for state pension retirees contingent on the outcome of an actuarial study of the pension systems.

Before the bill can move forward, an analysis will determine the unfunded liability that will result from the bill, among other funding requirements.

Per OPLAAA, the actuarial analysis shall be returned to the Senate committee chair no later than Dec. 1. After the actuarial analysis is received, a fiscal retirement bill is eligible for consideration by committee the following session, and should it pass out of committee, would be eligible for consideration by the entire Senate.

“Republican leadership has done great work over the past decade to save the state pension systems from fiscal ruin. Years of mismanagement prior to Republicans leading the Capitol left billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities for the state, threatened the retirement of public servants, and drove up the borrowing costs for the state, local governments, and school districts,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “OPLAAA is one of the crucial tools Republicans have used to shore up the state pension systems. We should follow laws like OPLAA that got us to this better position now. Public servants want and deserve a cost of living adjustment and HB 2304 can still deliver COLAs once the pension actuaries give the Legislature a report so that we have a complete picture of the costs and impacts of granting a COLA.”

“We don’t want to do anything to walk back the great progress Republicans have made in shoring up the state pension systems. Retired teachers, firefighters, police officers, and state employees deserve a cost of living adjustment. Laws like OPLAAA have been critical in the success story of state pension systems. We don’t know yet what the actuarial study will show, but it will give us a full picture when we consider to move forward with a 2 percent COLA without harming the funded liability of the pension systems,” said Sen. Dewayne Pemberton.

Vice President of the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police Mark Nelson said the vote is a good step in the right direction.

“We’re appreciative of the Senate for acknowledging retired police and firefighters’ need for a COLA and taking action today,” Nelson said. “A 2% COLA is a step in the right direction and will provide some relief for our retirees. However, this does not close the gap of 11 years without a COLA, a time when inflation has risen 26%. We look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to find a long-term solution for COLAs going forward.”

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