With only a little more than two weeks to go in the legislative session, a major funding threat looms to the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System. There is strong evidence to indicate some political leaders may be plotting to rob TRS of funds it needs to become fiscally sound.

Whether you’ve thought about it or not, you’ve got a lot riding on what the legislature does in the next couple of weeks.

The state of Oklahoma faces a projected $1.3 billion dollar budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Budget leaders are scrambling to find money in all kinds of places to balance the budget, as required by the state Constitution.

The only problem is some leaders want to balance the budget by siphoning off funds intended for the Teachers’ Retirement System.

They want active and retired educators to help pay for the loss of state revenue from the current downturn in oil and gas prices.

They want active and retired educators to help pay for more than a decade of cuts to the state’s personal income tax that has benefitted the state’s wealthiest, but the average Oklahoma taxpayer hardly at all.

Most legislators are too young to know what happened almost four decades ago when the legislature siphoned off nearly $350 million in TRS funds over several years for other government purposes. Even though OREA has told them the story often, many still seem not to understand that the theft of TRS funds in the 1980’s, coupled with a lack of adequate funding over the years, severely retarded the growth of the retirement system.

The negative effects of that legislative decision on TRS are still felt today.

Are we going to allow legislators to make another bad TRS decision that will likely have long-term consequences, just like in the 1980’s? And impact the safety of your retirement benefit? And delay by many more years your receipt of a COLA to help combat the ravages of inflation on your purchasing power?

In recent years, through effective system management, sound investment practices, stable funding sources, and – most importantly – the failure of retired educators to receive an improvement in benefits, the TRS funding level has improved to an all-time high of 66.7%.

Do we want continued TRS progress, or will we allow legislative leaders to turn back the clock to the bad old days?

OREA says no to that idea. That’s why we urge all OREA members, active educators, and our many friends throughout the state to immediately contact their state senators and representatives to emphatically say “NO” to a raid on TRS funds in the last weeks of the legislative session.

In addition, the following leaders need to hear from you:

Governor Mary Fallin 
(405) 521-2342
(800) 521-5853 toll free
(405) 521-3353 FAX

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman
(405) 521-5565
(800) 865-6490 toll free
(405) 521-5507 FAX

Senator Clark Jolley, Chair of Senate Appropriations Committee
(405) 521-5622
(800) 865-6490 toll free
(405) 521-5507 FAX

Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman
(405) 557-7339
(800) 522-8502 toll free
(405) 557-7351 FAX

Representative Earl Sears, Chair of House A& B Committee
(405) 557-7358
(800) 522-8502 toll free
(405) 557-7351 FAX

When contacting members of the House and Senate, ask yourself and them this question: Why is it that the Teachers’ Retirement System is not financially healthy enough to provide a cost-of-living benefits improvement to Oklahoma’s 59,000 retired educators, but is healthy enough for the legislature to siphon off money to balance the state budget?

Thanks for contacting the legislature on this critical issue. Remember, the retirement system you save could be your own.

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