Friday, April 15, 2022

OCPA: House Majority Leader makes false statements about pension bill

Lawmaker makes false statements about bill

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 14, 2022)— [House Majority Leader] State Rep. Josh West has made inaccurate and false claims about recent pension legislation approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs President Jonathan Small said today.

“The importance of an informed citizenry is often stressed when discussing self-government, but it pales in comparison to the need for elected lawmakers to understand the laws they vote on,” Small said. “Based on his recent public comments, that he has failed to retract, it is clear that Josh West did not.”

In March, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Bill 2486. The Legislation, as passed by the House, eliminated a nationally recognized and successful state defined-contribution retirement plan, similar to a 401(k) plan in the private sector, and instead placed most state government workers into a defined-benefit plan with a history of failure and politician enrichment.

That change would wipe away an estimated $3.8 billion in projected taxpayer savings over a three-decade period, thereby increasing financial stress on state government and also forcing state employees into a plan that is rigid and leaves state employees without portable assets.

Under the House version of the bill, members of the Oklahoma Legislature, including House members who voted for the bill, would have been shifted to the defined-benefit plan, which would provide a guaranteed, specified amount in retirement-benefit payments.  That change could significantly boost some legislators’ retirement benefits.

When Small recently highlighted that fact, West publicly responded via a Facebook post, “The legislature was not included in this bill ...” West also insisted any reports that House lawmakers voted to boost their own retirement benefits were “misleading,” “false,” and “BS.”

Current law mandates that any statewide elected official or legislator who assumes office after November 1, 2015, “shall become a participant in the defined contribution system” instead of the state’s defined-benefit plan.

Page 37 of the House Bill 2486, as passed by the House, would repeal that language, proving West was wrong.

Members of the Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee also discussed the fact that lawmakers were included in the bill during a recent hearing. The Senate committee members then voted to adopt a substitute measure that rewrote the entire bill and maintained the state’s defined-contribution plan.

Staff of both the House and Senate have stated that the bill included putting lawmakers back in the more lucrative system.

The House author of the legislation has also acknowledged that the House version of the bill included legislators among those shifted to the more lucrative defined-benefit plan.

In a recent email, West also appeared to threaten two officials at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, after they offered to deliver an award to his office. West wrote that “it probably wouldn’t be good for you two to stop by my office.”

“The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is committed to providing accurate and useful information on state policy debates—even if that makes some lawmakers angry,” Small said. “I know that Representative West recently said he wanted to ‘burn this sucker down,’ but there’s never a time when truth should be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. We will not shirk our duty simply to placate a politician’s ego, and we remain available to help all Oklahomans—including members of the Legislature—better understand the bills and policy debates underway at the Oklahoma Capitol.”

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is a free-market think tank that works to advance principles and policies that support free enterprise, limited government, individual initiative and personal responsibility.


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