Although Oklahoma has well-performing public pensions that follow the nationally recognized best practices for pension plans, it has still been a battleground for public pensions the past several years. The conservative state legislature has considered a number of bills over the past few sessions that would gut public pensions and harm the retirement security of working families.
While the ultra-conservative governor and state treasurer have both publicly stated their desire to dismantle public pensions in Oklahoma, two interim study commissions held this fall provided the opportunity to learn the facts about Oklahoma’s pension systems.
In recent testimony before the state senate study commission, economist Steve Herzenberg noted a number of strengths of Oklahoma’s public pensions. Five of the seven pension plans are above the 80% funding ratio to be considered a healthy plan and, as a whole, Oklahoma’s pensions rank seventh nationally in investment returns. Also, Oklahoma’s pensions are relatively modest, especially given the low overall compensation of public employees there. Furthermore, the state legislature has already enacted reforms in the past several years to put the pensions on a sound financial footing and legislators have touted these changes.
Based on his analysis, Herzenberg said “[Oklahoma’s pension] plans have performed well with high returns” and are financially sound.
Oklahoma’s teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public employees deserve a secure retirement after a career of public service. The state legislature currently faces a classic “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” situation: the public pensions there are working well and making drastic changes to them would do far more harm than good.