The Norman Transcript

State/Region

July 14, 2013

Lawmakers exploring issues

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

Crain said he hopes to study a consultant’s report that recommended ways to seek a federal waiver to expand the Insure Oklahoma program, along with what other states are doing that, like Oklahoma, have rejected an opportunity to expand Medicaid authorized under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Until we reach a final decision on how we want to approach the working poor and making sure they have access to insurance in Oklahoma, we need to explore whatever options are available and figure out what the best approach is to take for the state,” Crain said.

Also expected to draw legislative scrutiny in the interim is a plan to overhaul the state’s pension systems, including a proposal to shift newly hired state workers into a 401k-style savings plan instead of the traditional defined benefit pension system currently in place. Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill that would have given new hires the option of enrolling in a new type of defined contribution plan, saying the bill didn’t go far enough. Fallin also pushed last year for a proposal to consolidate the administrations of the state’s largest pension systems, but the measure never gained traction in the Legislature.

Another issue that went unresolved in the 2013 session — pay raises for state workers — also will be among the top priorities for legislators to study during the interim. Proposals to increase pay for Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers and state prison guards easily cleared the House and Senate, but Fallin said she wanted first to see the results of an in-depth study on state worker pay.

A consulting firm, Kenning Consulting, already has been awarded a $77,000 contract to provide technical assistance and develop recommendations on state employee pay, and a report expected in the fall likely will be a part of any interim study on the issue.

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