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Oklahoma pension plan changes are tabled

A proposal to consolidate boards and offices that mange Oklahoma's seven pension plans into one won't be taken up this legislative session. The state treasurer who supported the idea says he is hopeful an interim study on the topic can be done later this year.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: May 4, 2013

Proposed legislation to consolidate the staff, boards and offices of several pension plans into one will not be taken up this session.

State Treasurer Ken Miller, who along with Gov. Mary Fallin backed the concept, said not enough time remaining in this year's session and heavy lobbying the past week by firefighters and public school teachers opposed to the legislation led to tabling the issue.

Miller, a Republican as is Fallin, said he hopes the GOP-controlled Legislature will approve an interim study on the topic.

Lawmakers last week finalized agreements on three topics that dominated this year's session — overhauling workers' compensation from a court system to an administrative one, lowering the state's top personal income tax rate and repairing the crumbling state Capitol.

“The three major issues soaked up all the air in the room all session,” Miller said. “We kept waiting for those three main issues to be resolved so that we could turn the focus to pensions, and it just came a little bit too late to then expect the members to be able to fully focus on another major issue for the session.”

Last week's agreements led to Thursday's announcement by Fallin and GOP legislative leaders of a deal on a $7.1 billion budget for the 2014 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Lawmakers could meet until May 31, but with the budget as well as the workers' compensation, income tax cut and Capitol repairs legislation out of the way, Republican legislative leaders are talking about adjourning by May 24. Some lawmakers are suggesting adjournment could be as early as May 17.

“Pensions are a complicated issue,” Fallin said. “There needs to be more education done of the general public, especially pension holders that we're trying to strengthen the pension system and make sure the pension systems are still there when they retire.”

Seven pension plans

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

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.

About 400 firefighters from across the state opposed the plan during a rally last month outside the Capitol, and most Democrats voiced opposition to the idea.

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