Last Thursday, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitts signed House Bill 3350 into law, which grants most of Oklahoma’s retired public employees their first cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 12 years. The bill was unanimously passed by the state House and by an overwhelming 41-5 vote in the state Senate. 

This is a huge victory for Oklahoma’s retired public employees, whose everyday expenses like health care, housing, and groceries have all increased without their pension benefits keeping up with the cost of living. 

Under the new law, as of July 1, retired public employees who have been retired for more than five years will receive a four percent increase to their pension, and those who have been retired for at least two to five years will receive a two percent increase. 

Debbie Downing, a retired 4th grade teacher from Shawnee, spoke of the need for a COLA:

“I taught fourth grade for 32 years in Shawnee, dedicating my life to teaching future generations of Oklahomans. As a widow, I rely heavily on my retirement income and a COLA would help me live a dignified retirement. As the cost of everything from my medication to groceries increases, I’ve been left behind by not receiving a COLA in over a decade.”

According to The Oklahoman, this will affect the pensions of 113,000 retired Oklahomans. 

The purchasing power of these retirees is a net asset for the state’s economy. According to the National Institute of Retirement Security (NIRS), expenditures from pension spending supported 24,160 jobs and $3.5 billion in total economic output in 2016.