House sends pension accountability act to Senate
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Published: 01-Mar-2011
CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
 
Published 01-Mar-2011
 
The state House today (Tuesday, March 1) passed a measure described in a House staff release as “an important reform measure to improve the openness and accountability of the direct investments being made to the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System.”
 
House Bill 1007, which creates the Pension Funding Accountability Act, cleared the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The measure provides for the monthly transfer of revenues from the Teachers’ Retirement System Dedicated Revenue Revolving Fund to the Teachers’ Retirement System of Oklahoma (TRS) for the purpose of funding the system’s unfunded liability.
 
The measure continues momentum toward legislative approval of a series of changes in the state government’s pension and retirement plans, which were characterized last week by Treasurer Ken Miller as nearing “crisis level.”  
 
“The Legislature is making significant investments to improve the financial condition of the teachers’ retirement system,” said state Rep. Randy McDaniel, an Oklahoma City Republican. “HB 1007 ensures those investments are transparent and accounted for accurately.”
 
“It is one of our top priorities to find solutions to improve our pension plans,” said House Speaker Kris Steele, a Shawnee Republican who had identified pension reform as a top priority long before the November election.
 
Last year, State Question 744 was a major issue facing voters. The measure would have imposed a billion dollar unfunded mandate for education funding. After the facts of the issue were publicly aired, Oklahoma citizens rejected it by a margin of roughly 81 percent to 19 percent.
 
However, one issue associated with that debate did not receive extensive scrutiny – the reliability of the per-pupil funding figure cited by supporters of State Question 744.
 
“The fact is we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on education funding not being counted as part of Oklahoma’s education investment that are counted in other states,” McDaniel said. “We simply want the comparisons to be made fairly.”
 
“Education is a top priority of the Republican caucus,” Steele said.
 
According to official actuarial reports, for Fiscal Year 2010 the total contributions into the teachers’ retirement system were approximately $884 million. Roughly $200 million of that total each year is excluded from Oklahoma’s per-pupil spending because it is invested directly into the system.
 
House Bill 1007 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 69-27 vote. It will now go to the Oklahoma Senate.
 
Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report. 

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