Budget & Tax
Staff | April 8, 2022
Oklahoma House lawmakers vote to line their own pockets
Contact: Sheridan Betts
OKLAHOMA CITY (April 8, 2022)—Legislation recently passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives boosts the taxpayer-funded retirement benefits of the same lawmakers who voted for the bill, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs President Jonathan Small said today.
“Oklahoma families face many real challenges today, but an insufficiently lavish retirement plan for politicians is not one of them,” Small said. “Oklahoma voters have reiterated, repeatedly, that they want only a part-time Legislature receiving part-time pay and benefits. It is a slap in the face to working families for some House lawmakers to now try to enrich themselves at the expense of those taxpayers.”
House Bill 2486 eliminates a state defined-contribution retirement plan, similar to the 401(k) plans offered to most private-sector workers, and instead places most state government workers in a defined-benefit plan.
In the defined-benefit plan, state government employees receive a guaranteed, specified amount in retirement payments regardless of investment returns, and lifetime benefits can often far exceed the amount paid into the system by the employee.
Among those enriched by HB 2486 are House lawmakers who voted for the bill’s passage. Their guaranteed retirement benefits could increase significantly under HB 2486. The bill passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 68-23 vote.
HB 2486 represents a dramatic step backward from prior efforts to shore up state pensions and reduce taxpayer obligations. The Legislature voted in 2014 to shift all new state government employees (aside from teachers or those working in hazardous positions, such as police and firefighters) into the 401(k)-style retirement plan. The shift to a 401(k) plan was projected to save state taxpayers $3.8 billion over the next 30 years and significantly reduce the unfunded liabilities of Oklahoma state pension systems, which ranked among the worst in the country at that time.
This latest effort to boost legislators’ retirement benefits comes on top of a $12,000 pay raise provided to all state lawmakers that took effect in November 2020.
Small noted that Oklahoma voters imposed 12-year term limits on state legislators to encourage true “citizen legislators” to serve, as envisioned by the nation’s founders, rather than individuals who seek political office as a lucrative, lifelong career.
“As families are grappling with the crippling effects of Biden inflation, too many House lawmakers are seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of those same Oklahomans, many of whom have little in retirement savings and will now likely be saddled with increased taxpayer obligations caused by this change,” Small said. “Taxpayers are depending on the Senate to stand up for working families and fiscal sanity by denying this bill a hearing. Working families will not forget, nor soon forgive, this insult.”
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is a free-market think tank that works to advance principles and policies that support free enterprise, limited government, individual initiative and personal responsibility.