Legislation to address the growing crisis in the Teachers’ Retirement System of Oklahoma (TRS) is now on its way to Gov. Brad Henry for his consideration. That’s after the full Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 357 on Monday. Sen. Mike Mazzei and Sen. Kenneth Corn co-authored the measure. They agreed passage of the bill was a critical move toward addressing the system’s $7 billion unfunded liability.
“When it comes to teachers’ retirement systems, Oklahoma is currently rated the third worst in the nation—we must turn that around. The impact of this legislation is as dramatic as the ramifications if we fail to act,” said Mazzei, R-Tulsa. “This measure will phase in higher employer contributions into the system through increased education appropriations. Once phased in, this will represent an infusion of $60 million per year.”
Mazzei and Corn praised Senate Appropriations co-chairs Johnnie Crutchfield, D-Ardmore, and Mike Johnson, R-Kingfisher, for their leadership in the effort to strengthen TRS. The lawmakers said the legislation would take TRS from the present funding level of approximately 49 percent to a level of more than 80 percent by the year 2026.
“In addition, SB 357 contains a provision to ensure state contributions to TRS will be held harmless in periods of economic downturn, ensuring our continued movement toward completely funding the system,” said Corn, D-Poteau. “With this legislation, we will ultimately be able to improve our bond rating, saving the state millions of dollars a year—but more than that, we can tell the 80,000 members of TRS that they can count on their retirement pensions when the time comes.”