Senate closes pension doubling loophole

The state Senate on Monday approved legislation to close a loophole in the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) that has enabled a small group of former elected officials to double their pensions if they worked most of their careers as public employees before being elected to office.
Sen. Mike Mazzei, author of Senate Bill 1641, said that with pension systems currently saddled with tremendous unfunded liability, the state cannot afford to pay inflated sums to a select group of politicians.

“These benefits are not afforded to the average Oklahoman, and to expect average Oklahomans to foot the bill for these exorbitant sums is morally wrong,” said Mazzei, R-Tulsa.  “If the state is to meet its long-term economic goals, fiscally irresponsible laws such as this demand the legislature’s scrutiny.  I’m pleased the Senate voted in favor of closing this loophole.”

Under Senate Bill 1641, new members to OPERS who become elected officials will receive benefits based on existing contribution rates and their highest compensation received as an elected official, and only for their years of service as an elected official.  

At the top of the list for inflated pensions, Mazzei said, is former Auditor and Inspector Clifton Scott.  Scott’s annual salary as Auditor and Inspector was $83,510, while his retirement pension from the state is $147,000.  Mazzei said the loophole was created by legislation passed in 1988.

“Oklahoma taxpayers deserve a Legislature dedicated to investing their contributions responsibly, rather than handing out special perks and benefits to a select few,” Mazzei said.  “This is another positive step to strengthen our retirement systems.  I want to especially thank Senator Roger Ballenger who helped craft this compromise, and we both ask Governor Henry to sign this bill.”