The Oklahoma Senate approved a bill that would give state retirees a cost-of-living adjustment.
The bill passed May 15 on a bipartisan 41-5 vote and would provide retirees with their first COLA increase in 12 years.
"Twelve years is a long time — the cost of living has gone up," said state Sen. Roger Thompson, a Republican and the principal author of the bill, in a recorded message on the Oklahoma Senate's website. "It's time that we stand up and take care of those who have taken care of us for so many years."
The bill grants COLAs to retirees in six state pensions plans: $17.1 billion Oklahoma Teachers' Retirement System, $10.3 billion Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, $2.7 billion Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System, $2.4 billion Oklahoma Police Pension & Retirement System, $901 million Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System and $338 million Uniform Retirement System for Justices & Judges. All six pension funds are based in Oklahoma City.
The legislation calls for a 4% increase for those who have been retired for five or more years as of July 1, 2020, and a 2% increase for those who have been retired for two to five years. Those retired less than two years would not see an increase.
The bill passed unanimously in the state House in May. It will now go to Gov. Kevin Stitt for his consideration. If the measure is signed, the COLAs would go into effect July 1.
The bill's approval in the Senate comes on the heels of a state budget battle that called for reduced contributions to the Oklahoma Teachers' Retirement System, Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System, Oklahoma Police Pension & Retirement System and Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System to fund education initiatives.
Mr. Stitt vetoed measures in the budget that would reduce the amounts that state lawmakers directly contribute to shore up the four pension funds. Contributions to the retirement system for teachers would be $73 million less annually for the next two years, while those to the retirement systems for police, firefighters and law enforcement officials would fall by $39 million.
"We have made great progress shoring up our retirement systems in the last few years, and now is not the time to undo that progress," Mr. Stitt said in a news release on his website.
The Oklahoma Legislature overrode the governor's veto May 13.