President Steve Massey and other OREA members and staff met this week with state representatives Earl Sears (R, Bartlesville) and Randy McDaniel (R, Edmond) to present each of the legislative leaders with a certificate of commendation for strong support during the 2015 legislative session in warding off legislative efforts to divert funding from the Teachers’ Retirement System.
As chairs of the House of Representatives Appropriations and Budget Committee and the Business, Labor and Retirement Laws Committee, Sears and McDaniel never wavered last legislative session in opposing a raid on revenues dedicated to TRS from the state’s income, sales and use taxes. TRS relies on funding from these tax sources each year for about 30% of its operating costs. Much of the money goes toward benefits payments to more than 59,000 retired Oklahoma educators.
Although their numbers dwindle with the passage of time, many OREA members still remember the last diversion of TRS funds in the early 1980’s, which left the retirement system woefully underfunded. Combined with legislative neglect for years thereafter, TRS languished as one of the most poorly funded major public pension systems in the nation.
In recent years, a greater legislative financial commitment, along with excellent system management and favorable investment returns, have put TRS on a path toward full funding within the next two decades.
OREA knows that we cannot go down the previous path that weakened the retirement system and led to disparate treatment of retired educators compared to their retired colleagues in other state of Oklahoma retirement systems.
Speaking for OREA members, President Massey thanked Sears and McDaniel for their past efforts on behalf of TRS, and for their assurance of continued support this session if threats to the retirement system develop as a result of a projected $1.3 billion revenue shortfall for the new state budget year beginning July 1.
Massey also thanked Sears and McDaniel for their willingness to work positively with OREA representatives on all matters relating to the welfare of retired educators. He specifically cited McDaniel’s bill this session to provide a benefits improvement for retired educators and other system retirees. Unfortunately, the bill failed to receive floor consideration in the House of Representativ