Monday, May 07, 2007

Gov. Henry Signs Bill Addressing Teachers’ Pension System

Gov. Brad Henry today signed a bill that will put the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System (OTRS) on the road to fiscal stability. Providing a permanent fix for OTRS was one of the top priorities outlined by the governor in his 2007 State of the State address in February.

Senate Bill 357, by Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield (D-Ardmore) and Rep. Chris Benge (R-Tulsa) will gradually increase employer contribution rates to OTRS. The measure will bring the system, currently less than 50 percent funded, up to 80 percent funded by 2026.

“Oklahoma’s teachers are some of the finest public servants in Oklahoma,” Gov. Henry said. “In serving our children, they have served all of us and they deserve a pension system that is solvent, secure and able to fulfill the state’s commitments.”

The Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System currently has an unfunded liability in excess of $7 billion and is rated one of the worst funded pension systems in the country.

State Treasurer Scott Meacham, who served as the governor's point person on OTRS reform, noted that teachers will not be the only beneficiaries of SB 357. Oklahoma’s bond rating could benefit from the action as well.

“As the unfunded liability is decreased over the next 19 years, I believe the bond rating agencies will look more favorably on our ratings, and that will ultimately save taxpayers money,” said Treasurer Meacham.

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