Retirement Benefits Bill Termed Dead / Say Dennis, Abbott

Article excerpt

A state retirement benefits bill is dead for the session because of opposition from Gov. Henry Bellmon, Legislative sponsors said Wednesday.

``There will be no retirement bill this session,'' Sen. Gerald Dennis, D-Antlers, said after a meeting between legislators and Bellmon this afternoon.

The governor had decided against supporting a retirement bill, citing a lack of information on the financial impact of the measure, said State Rep. Lonnie Abbott, D-Ada, principal House sponsor.

Abbott said he had not completely given up on passing a retirement plan this year, but added such action would be futile unless the governor changes his mind.

Earlier Wednesday, Abbott, chairman of the House Retirement Laws Committee, said Bellmon had been ``very receptive'' to changes made in the bill, which increased retirement benefits for teachers, public employees and elected officials.

It was Bellmon's letter opposing the bill and threatening a veto in addition to some legislative opposition that caused Abbott to remove the bill from the House floor during debate last week.

``We made some changes in it,'' Abbott said. "We cut the total increase of the benefits in half. That seemed to be his (Bellmon's) greatest concern. I think we can work something out."

The House member later said he thought Oklahoma Finance Director Lex Holmes played a key role in a change-of-position by the governor.

``Holmes has been against it from the start,'' he said.

The retirement bill was written to cover teachers, public employees, police, firefighters and elected officials, including legislators.

A week ago, Abbott said the total annual increased cost in the bill would be about $38.5 million. He said Wednesday that the cost had been cut to about $19 million.

Bellmon, in his letter passed out to House members during last week's debate, said the additional costs to the retirements systems for the payout period easily would top $500 million. …