Oklahoma firefighters rally against consolidating state pension boards

About 400 firefighters showed up outside the Oklahoma Capitol to oppose a plan to consolidate state pension boards. The plan has the support of the governor and state treasurer.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: March 18, 2013 at 8:33 pm •  Published: March 19, 2013

Hundreds of firefighters from across Oklahoma rallied Monday to show opposition to efforts to consolidate the staff, boards and offices of several pension plans into one and legislation to change the state workers' compensation court into an administrative system, which they said would reduce benefits.

Herb Bradshaw, executive director of the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association, told about 400 firefighters gathered outside on the south steps of the state Capitol that he was perturbed to hear radio advertisements supporting the consolidation.

Bradshaw said firefighters have not been involved in talks to consolidate the pension commissions and that no legislation has been filed, although at least two empty, or shell, bills could be used this year. He said he was irked that the ads referred to firefighters as being a special interest group opposed to the consolidation of pension boards.

“We are not a special interest group, we are Oklahoma fire,” Bradshaw said. “If we have to fight the devil himself to put out his fire, we'll do it.”

Oklahoma has seven pension plans, six of which have independent boards, staff, offices, consultants and investment managers.

Oklahoma firefighters have their own pension board, the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System.

About 220,000 employees and retirees are part of the state's pension system. Those covered include teachers, agency workers, police, troopers, firefighters and judges.

Not combining funds

The state spends $80 million to $100 million each year to administer the pensions. Gov. Mary Fallin, who supports the consolidation, has estimated the state could realize at least 15 percent in savings by consolidating the pension plans.

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