Luttrell supports COLA for state retirees
Ponca City Now - November 20, 2019 4:07 pm
Rep. Ken Luttrell, a Republican, serves District 37 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Kay and Osage Counties.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Ken Luttrell (R-Ponca City) on Wednesday commented on his support of a cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees.
“I have been visiting with retired public employees in our district, including teachers, firefighters, and police officers, listening to their concerns,” Luttrell said. “Retired employees have seen health insurance premiums rise at a rate that has outpaced their retirement benefits, and they’ve experienced loss of buying power since they last received a COLA in 2008. Many retirees do not receive Social Security, so they rely solely on their retirement benefit on which to live, and it is simply not enough.
Luttrell’s sentiments match that of other legislators who are also working to secure a COLA for state pensioners.
“Our public retirees spent their lives and careers dedicated to serving our state, and after 11 years of waiting, they deserve the long-term stability a COLA would provide,” he said. “The strength of our retirement systems is vastly improved compared to 11 years ago.”
Luttrell said his seatmate in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Rep. Avery Frix, ran legislation last year that would have given state retirees a COLA, which Luttrell supported. The legislation passed the House overwhelmingly but was not picked up in the state Senate. The Senate instead requested an actuarial analysis to see how the state’s retirement systems would be affected by a 2 percent COLA. The House made a request for an analysis of 4 percent. Those reports are due Dec. 1.
Luttrell joins other lawmakers in urging the state Senate to take up the legislation to grant state retirees a COLA in the upcoming legislative session.
“The state is in much better financial shape today than the last time a COLA was given,” he said.
He pointed out that teachers have been given a pay raise two years in a row as have other state employees. The state’s financial rankings also have improved. Several of the state’s pension plans are now more than 100 percent funded and most are near 80 percent funded. Retirees don’t want to harm their own benefit plan, but they want the COLA they were promised when the plans were established, he reiterated.
The House Banking, Financial Services and Pensions Committee hosted a recent interim study in which the heads of all of the state’s pension and retirements systems – state firefighters, police, justices and judges, law enforcement, teachers and public employees – were invited to take part. Each presenter gave a financial status report and stressed that their retirement system could absorb the cost of a COLA without undue damage to the overall funding ratio of the systems.