At the end of May, OCPA released the policy paper: “SAVING WORKERS’ RETIREMENT: First Steps Toward Public Pension Reform in Oklahoma.”
We asked Jonathan Small, C.P.A., Fiscal Policy Director at OCPA 5 questions about the study and what OCPA hopes to see come from it.
1. What does the OCPA pension study uncover?
OCPA’s study shows Oklahoma’s state retirement systems are in trouble and are over $11.5 billion dollars in debt, exceeding the state appropriated budget by 69 percent. Worse, Oklahoma’s retirement systems are in danger of not being able to meet their promises to state employees and retirees and their growing costs are going to reduce government’s ability to provide core services.
2. How does this affect Oklahoma families?
If we don’t fix our broken pensions, it means that core services like education, transportation and public safety won’t be adequately funded, which will hurt Oklahoma families who all rely on some of these services.
3. What caused this to happen?
Our broken retirement systems are a direct result of politicians promising unrealistic benefits, failing to fund those promises, then worse relying too much on unrealistic investment returns to pay for their irresponsibility.
4. What main points does the pension study make?
- Over the long-term, Oklahoma needs real public employee retirement reform of all six of its active state defined-benefit plans in order to keep its promises to current and retired government employees and to allow for adequate funding of core services.
- Real public retirement reform in Oklahoma will result in peace of mind about safe and secure retirement for public employees
- Oklahoma needs a defined-contribution retirement plan for all new employees eligible for the OPERS
- Implementing a defined-contribution retirement plan for all new employees eligible for the OPERS will help government keep its promises to current and retired government employees and allow for adequate funding of core services
5. How does OPERS or Oklahoma state government move forward from this?
Real state government retirement reform can be implemented by lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session. If lawmakers in Oklahoma restructure current retirement plans and cap the accumulation of unfunded promises by implementing a defined contribution plan for all new OPERS employees, this will ensure state government can keep its promises to current employees and retirees and ensure adequate funding for core services for the future.