The last cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) Oklahoma’s state retirees received was in 2008 yet living expenses have continually increased. The Vice Chair of the Senate Insurance and Retirement Committee, Sen. Ron Sharp, said it’s time to find a funding solution.
The Shawnee Republican has filed Senate Bill 1817 to re-apportion a percentage of certain new taxes to provide more regular COLAs for Oklahoma’s six public retirement systems. He noted that the 2011 Oklahoma Pension Legislation Actuarial Analysis Act (OPLAAA) requires all COLAs to be fully funded upon their enactment.
“Ten years ago, Oklahoma had some of the worst pension systems in the country--but thanks to a strong economy and major reforms since then, the systems are now solvent with some being fully funded. It’s time to take care of our state retirees who are facing ever-increasing healthcare, food and utility costs,” Sharp said. “Under OPLAAA, the legislature has to provide a funding mechanism for any COLA. By utilizing a portion of the new taxes from alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, we can give our retirees the COLA they deserve and have been promised.”
SB 1817 would create the “Oklahoma Cost-of-Living Adjustment Revenue Revolving Fund” from apportionments of new tax collections currently going to the General Revenue Fund. Apportionments would include one-third of taxes on alcoholic beverages, mixed beverages, cigarettes and tobacco products as well as half of the excise tax on marijuana.
“While I want all of our pension funds to be fully funded, I’m also extremely concerned that our state's retirees have faced an estimated 26 percent increased inflation rate since 2008,” Sharp explained. “Our state has had no problem providing millions in tax credits and other benefits to various industries and entities over the years. It’s time to start providing our state retirees with a regular COLA and show them the respect they deserve and have earned through their dedication and service to the State of Oklahoma.”
Due to its structure, the Wildlife and Conservation retirement system does not fall under the provisions of OPLAAA and, therefore, is not included in this plan.
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