Retired and current public employees in Oklahoma are resilient. After facing a defeat on cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) legislation last year, current and retired public employees are fighting once again for a much-needed boost in retiree benefits.
On March 11th, the Oklahoma House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HB2304 by a vote of 98-3, which provides a 4 percent COLA for retired public employees. This COLA would be the first in 11 years. As inflation increases each and every year, retired public employees, including teachers, firefighters, and police officers, are having trouble keeping up with the increasing cost of groceries, medications, and other essential items.
The bill now rests in the hands of the state senate, who have until the end of next week to vote. In the meantime, President Pro Tempore Greg Treat has appointed seven senators to a pension working group that are tasked with hashing out a plan. That being said, it seems that Senator Treat also has “pension reform” on his mind. As long time readers of Defined Benefit know, that type of language can include a variety of things, including legislation intended to dismantle public pension systems.
Keep Oklahoma’s Promises (KOP) has worked to not only educate lawmakers on the necessity of a COLA, but the general public as well. On Monday of this week, the coalition along with partner organizations hosted a retiree day of action where over 100 retirees descended on the capitol to educate lawmakers. Additionally, this week, two great stories were run in the state, including on Channel 9 in Oklahoma City, Channel 6 in Tulsa, and in the Tulsa World.
If you’re reading this blog and you live in the great State of Oklahoma, make sure your voice is heard. Email your State Senator today and tell them to support HB2304. If you’re from anywhere else, be sure to check back in on our blog or follow us on Twitter or on Facebook for updated information.