Voters would be asked to make sure certain steps are taken before a cost-of-living increase is given to those receiving a state pension, according to a measure that won committee approval Wednesday.
House Joint Resolution 1027 is intended to protect the funds of the state's six pensions, said Rep. Randy McDaniel, author of the measure.
The House of Representatives Economic Development and Financial Services Committee voted 11-3 to pass the measure. It now goes to the full House.
State employees have expressed concerns about the measure and McDaniel, R-Edmond, agreed to a parliamentary procedure that will ensure the measure would return again to the House after the Senate acts on it.
“This is not a final product,” he told committee members.
Lawmakers two years ago passed a measure that requires the Legislature to fully fund cost-of-living adjustment increases for those on the state's pension system. Legislators in past decades approved benefit increases without providing additional money, which resulted in the money coming from the pension funds.
Before that law passed, the state's pension system had a $16.5 billion unfunded liability, making it among the worst in the country. After the law passed, the unfunded liability was reduced by nearly a third or about $5 billion.
If HJR 1027 is approved by the Legislature and voters support it, the constitutional amendment would make the law permanent, McDaniel said.
Another provision would prohibit raiding the pension funds for other purposes.
“We are saying you can't have a prohibitive practice of moving money from the pension systems to pay for roads and bridges or something else,” he said.
The measure also would require that legislators obtain an actuarial investigation before passing laws designed to increase public pension benefits and costs.
It also would require that all state retirement plan investments be made according to the prudent investor rule, with well-diversified, professionally managed portfolios to minimize risk.
“This is a good idea today and it's a good idea for the future of the state,” McDaniel said.
The state's six major pension systems fund retirement pay for retired state employees, teachers, firefighters, police, law enforcement officers and judges.