House counters Senate’s COLA reduction for all retirees
Earlier in the year, the House of Representatives passed with a large margin a four percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for state retirees in House Bill 2304 by Rep. Avery Frix.
The bill was sent to the Senate for a vote. The Senate amended the House bill reducing the COLA to two percent, but they held off on final passage of the bill and referred it instead to Legislative Actuary under statute 62 O.S., Section 3108. The Senate did this to ensure the two percent COLA would not harm current funding levels of the pension plans.
Pension plans for state retirees at one point were dangerously low and underfunded. Over the years, additional money has been put into the plans, increasing funding levels to between 72 percent and over 100 percent for several. A pension plan funded at 80 percent is commonly considered fully funded.
In sending the two percent COLA to the Legislative Actuary, the Senate specified that study must be complete and a response sent back to the Senate by early December 2019.
Today, the House Rules Committee, on which I serve as co-chair, passed House Bill 2485 to send the House plan of a four percent COLA to the same study group to see if 4 percent would harm funding levels of the current pension plans. The four percent passed today is the original amount the House agreed to and passed earlier in the year for retirees.
The study for the House amount of four percent will be completed and sent back to the House by early January. This will be in time for a new bill to be heard and passed in the 2020 legislative session when both the Senate and House learns how the two percent or four percent COLAs will affect the current pension plans.
Once again, the Oklahoma House of Representatives believes retirees have been left without an increase in their COLA for too long. Retirees have been strapped with cost of living increases, including higher insurance premiums, and 4 percent is the right amount to be provided as soon as possible.
State Rep. Lundy Kiger represents House District 3 in Leflore County in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
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