Governor Keating's plan to raid state pension funds is drawing the opposition of a powerful law enforcement organization. The development has prompted a Senate budget leader to renew his call for the Governor and Republican lawmakers to drop the initiative and resist tampering with state retirement funds.
"We've been urging the Governor to leave the state pension funds alone, but he seems bound and determined to raid whatever source he can to pay for his tax cut program. I think Governor Keating should listen to what people are saying and abandon the pension diversion scheme before he does some real damage to our retirement systems," said Senator Cal Hobson, vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Lexington legislator pointed to a new letter from the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police which stated its opposition to the pension diversion. Among other things, the FOP took exception to a new amortization formula created by Finance Director Tom Daxon and used by the Governor to reach the conclusion that several state retirement systems were "overfunded." The letter also accused Governor Keating of misleading people and playing politics with the issue.
"It is exactly the approach one would use if they only were interested in being re-elected for another term. By the time taxpayers see the folly of this approach, the election would be over. In any case, using a standard of measurement that is neither the industry standard nor the one mandated legislatively seems to be an attempt to mislead and confuse the taxpayers and the members of the various pension systems.
Your contention... is a scare tactic based on misinformation"--FOP Letter to Gov. Keating
"The FOP letter reinforces the point we've been trying to make all session long. Governor Keating and his people cooked the numbers in an effort to justify an ill-advised raid on state pension funds. I can't understand why the Governor is adamantly defending his pension raid when there is so much evidence illustrating what a bad idea it is," said Senator Hobson, who first raised the issue in early February after the Governor formally proposed the pension diversion in his executive budget.
Governor Keating and Republican legislators reiterated their support for the pension raid this week when they unveiled their latest spending and tax cut program. In order to make their proposed expenditures on government programs and enact their tax reduction, they would have to carry through with the $44 million pension diversion originally proposed in the Governor's executive budget (pgs. 81 to 87) .
"The only way they can deliver the magnitude of tax cuts they've proposed is to raid the pension funds, and that's completely irresponsible. They shouldn't be dipping into the hard-earned money of retirees just so they can pass a feel-good tax program in an election year. Pensions are sacred and should be treated as such," said Senator Hobson.
The Senate leader also pointed to State Question 645, a constitutional amendment which decreed that pension funds "shall not be encumbered for or diverted for any other purposes." Oklahoma voters approved the state question by a 2 to 1 margin in 1992.
"No matter what the Governor calls it, whether it's a pension raid or a pension diversion or a pension redirection, it's a clear evasion of the constitutional protection overwhelmingly approved by Oklahoma voters. The reason we have the amendment is because others have tried the pension raid game Governor Keating is running now," said Senator Hobson.