Pension Plan Changes Concern Oklahoma Coalition

A coalition of public service workers are concerned about the proposed changes to Oklahoma pension plans. Firefighters, teachers and other workers are voicing concerns over the proposal to change their pension plans to those similar to a 401(k).

The Public Pension Coalition members said a proposal to convert the state's defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution plan for new state employees would make the retirement plan riskier by subjecting them to variations in investment markets. "We want to protect the benefits for our retirees," said former Rep. Phil Ostrander, who represents the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association.

But a researcher for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs said implementing the plan for two of the state's largest retirement systems, the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System and the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, would help eliminate the debt those systems have accrued and cut employment costs.

"There are problems with the pension systems," said Steve Anderson, a certified public accountant. "We need to take care of the debt. The bigger it gets, the bigger the problem."

This is one of a number of pension reviews across the world that seem to disadvantage the payees so the plans stay out of debt. It brings future financial security into question, which is why its such an emotive topic. Public service workers have always enjoyed better pension plans than the majority of other workers. This was the trade-off for being paid less than private sector workers. That trade-off is now looking a little one-sided as pension reforms begin to gain momentum.

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