YOUR CALLS AND CONTACTS ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE. House Bill 2985—COLA Bill still has not been placed on the House calendar to be heard, but interest in the bill is growing. In fact, 17 representatives have signed on to co-author the bill. The bill also has a senate author, Sen. Pemberton, District 9, Muskogee. There are legislators who have heard your message. They know and understand that ten years is a long time without any cost of living adjustment. They recognize that health care costs have risen significantly along with other basic needs.    

WE CAN’T GIVE UP NOW! Please continue to call Speaker Charles McCall’s office at 405-557-7412 and also your representative to insist that the bill be heard! The deadline for the bill to be heard is Thursday, March 15th. If the bill is placed back on the calendar to be heard on the floor of the House, we will alert you. It is important to call your representative so that one, the bill can be heard, and two, that they will vote YES on the bill.  

When you talk to your legislator, he or she may respond with one of the excuses we’ve been hearing:  

The state can’t afford a COLA; there’s no revenue.

Fact: HB 2985 doesn’t take any money from the state’s budget or general revenue fund. The COLAs are funded out of the respective pension systems. The dedicated revenue to the TRS has been in place and should remain in place.  

The pension systems will be bankrupted.

Fact: Although a cost is associated with any COLA, the $425 Million cost to the Teacher Retirement System is amortized over the life of the COLA. The assets of the TRS are valued at over $16 Billion. The more important issue is how the funded ratio is affected. Each system’s actuaries have stated that the system CAN afford a COLA, that funding is completely within acceptable perimeters!  

The 1.35% change to the funded ratio will go down by that percentage every year.

Fact: The funding ratio is a “snapshot” of the health of the system comparing the funding available to the remaining unfunded liability. In 2017, the funded ratio was 70.4%. By lowering the ratio 1.35%, the new percentage would be 69.05%--a one-time change due to a COLA.  

Retirees will want a COLA every year.

Fact: Retirees might want a COLA every year, but understand that this is not realistic. Retirees have sacrificed cost of living adjustments for ten years, but the rate of inflation has risen to the point that retirees have experienced a significant loss of buying power. The language in HB 2985 only allows for this ONE-TIME COLA, it doesn’t change the law to give a COLA on any continued basis AT ALL. In addition, no one wants to maintain a healthy system more than the retirees who paid into the system with their own money and with the money employers/districts paid into the system as a benefit of their employment. The TRS BELONGS to the retirees. We want to protect it.  

If the state can’t increase salaries for active teachers and state employees, why should retirees get a “raise?”

Fact: A cost of living adjustment isn’t technically a “raise.” It’s an increase in an earned benefit—with the retirees own money, AND, funds to pay for a COLA come from an entirely different source of money (THEIR OWN) than employee raises (state appropriated revenue) that must have a source of revenue.  


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