Citing a new budget estimate that will certify an additional $19.9 million for appropriation in the coming fiscal year, a Senate leader is urging Governor Keating to drop his proposed pension raid and use the new funds to help balance the current executive budget. He also wants the Governor to take a "pension protection pledge."
"This is a great chance for the Governor to correct an earlier misjudgment and quietly back away from his ill-conceived pension raid. I don't think a raid on retirement funds is justifiable at any time, but it's especially inappropriate in a year when growth revenue is available," said Senator Darryl Roberts, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
Governor Keating has proposed pulling $44 million from state pension funds to help balance the executive budget. His tax initiatives would cost $42 million this year.
When it was announced on Friday that an additional $19.9 million would be certified by the State Equalization Board, the Governor made another pitch for his executive budget program, which includes the pension raid.
"I'm sure state retirees wish Governor Keating had used the opportunity to rescind his pension raid, instead of making another pitch for a budget that endangers their retirement funds," said Senator Roberts.
The Ardmore legislator is urging Governor Keating to take a "pension protection pledge" in which he would promise not to raid state retirement funds or do anything else that might endanger pension dollars.
"Pensions are sacred and should be protected at all costs. I think Governor Keating owes it to state retirees to pledge to them in writing that he will not take any action that will jeopardize their life savings. He doesn't need to balance the budget on the backs of state retirees," said Senator Roberts.
The Senate leader wants Governor Keating to publicly take the pledge before he votes to certify the new revenue at the State Equalization Board meeting tomorrow.
Roberts noted such a pledge would also be in keeping with State Question 645, a constitutional amendment which decreed that pension funds "shall not be encumbered for or diverted for any other purposes." Oklahoma voters approved the state question by a 2 to 1 margin in 1992.
"No matter what the Governor calls it, whether it's a pension raid or a pension diversion or a pension redirection, it's a clear evasion of the constitutional protection overwhelmingly approved by Oklahoma voters. The reason we have the amendment is because others have tried the pension raid game Governor Keating is running now," said Senator Roberts.
"We specifically put a stop to it with the amendment and the Governor should respect that. Instead of raiding the pension funds, he should take a pledge to protect them and the state retirees they benefit."