Oklahoma moves forward with bill aiming to eliminate traditional pensions for state workers


Oklahoma’s landscape is dotted with abandoned frontier forts, Civil War battle sites and other relics of history.

Now you might be able to add another relic to that list: state sponsored defined-benefit pension plans, which could soon become a remnant of the past in Oklahoma.

The state’s House of Representatives passed a bill today that would shift newly hired state workers from the current defined-benefit system into a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan.

Under the plan, employees would allocate at least 3% of their paychecks to the retirement plan, and the state would match those contributions up to 7%.

The bill doesn’t apply to teachers, firefighters or police officers, and would only cover state workers who are hired after November 1, 2015.

The Associated Press has more details:

The state worker salary bill would set aside 3 percent of the previous fiscal year’s payroll costs for salary adjustments each year and give the Office of Management Enterprise Services authority to set pay structures and determine if targeted adjustments are needed.

Its author, Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, said it will provide initial raises to the state’s lowest-paid workers, including corrections, human services and public safety workers, at a cost of about $40 million.

State worker salaries are about 20 percent below comparable jobs in the competitive labor market. The measure would boost salaries to 90 percent of private-sector pay over four years.

Opponents of the measure are concerned that it shifts too much risk onto workers. The payout of a 401(k) plan is determined by the performance of its underlying investments, which means an economic downturn would severely decrease the value of retirees’ nest eggs.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.


Photo Credit: KatsRCool via Flickr Creative Commons License