In 1988, the Democrat controlled legislature passed a bill that allowed an Oklahoman who toiled for years as a state or county employee to hit the retirement lottery if they managed to be elected to public office. Governor Henry Bellmon, a Republican, vetoed the bill, but the Democrat legislature overrode the veto. The bill provided that when an elected official retired, their higher pension rate as an elected official was applied not only to their elected years, but also to the years they were a non-elected employee.
For example, former Oklahoma State Auditor Clifton Scott who worked 20 years in state government before being elected Auditor and served 20 years as Auditor. Scott now draws 160% of the average of his final three years salary- around $147,000 annually. He is just one example. Jones said this loophole has cost Oklahoma taxpayers over a billion dollars. The legislature closed the ‘loophole’ in 2008, but these overpayments continue to those who were ‘grandfathered.’ into the old formula.
Past Oklahoma legislatures didn’t just ‘feather their own nests.’ They promised teachers and state employees pension benefits and then didn’t fund their pension plans. Their irresponsible behavior created a shortfall of over $11 billion dollars in the seven pension plans managed by the state. Since Republicans took over the legislature in 2006, they have made progress in the Oklahoma pension fund crisis, but they the pension plan are still only about two thirds funded.
What would make it worse would be for hardworking Oklahoma taxpayers to be saddled with a tax increase to pay pension benefits for retired elected officials who didn’t earn them.