From The Insurance Commissioner’s Office
Insurance Commissioner John Doak has voiced his support for bolstering the pension funds of the state’s firefighters.
Doak said he supports House Bill 2320 introduced by Rep. Randy McDaniel (R-Oklahoma City), which would restore solvency to the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System in part by increasing contributions from insurance premium taxes. The plan negotiated with firefighters would also raise firefighter and municipality contributions to the fund by 1 percent each.
Firefighter pensions are presently just 63 percent funded. If enacted, HB 2320 would raise pension system funding above 90 percent within 30 years.
“The Legislature tackled pension shortfalls for teachers, judges and certain other public employees in 2011,” Doak said. “It is time to make similar corrections to ensure the retirement futures of our firefighters.”
Doak visited with public safety personnel and emergency responders while touring all 77 counties during his first year in office. The Commissioner took interest in a number of fire service-related issues, particularly improving the state’s overall firefighting performance as measured by Insurance Services Office. Those ratings often help determine homeowner and business property insurance rates.
ISO’s Public Protection Classification program grades fire departments on a scale of 1 (best) to 10. Doak notes that about 53 percent of Oklahoma’s nearly 1,600 municipal and rural fire departments score in the 9 and 10 categories. Midwest City is the only department in Oklahoma to earn an ISO rating of 1.
“Oklahomans deserve great fire protection, and great fire protection begins with great firefighters,” Doak said. “In turn, the men and women who risk their lives protecting our families, homes and property from fire deserve to have confidence that their retirement plans aren’t at risk. Oklahoma can’t recruit and retain qualified firefighters unless we honor our financial commitments to the men and women who serve.”
Robert Jones, executive director of the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System, expressed gratitude for the commissioner’s support.
“I wish to thank Commissioner Doak on behalf of both paid and volunteer Oklahoma firefighters and the Firefighters Pension System for the principled position he has taken,” Jones said. “His continued support of Oklahoma firefighters is greatly appreciated.”
Doak designates one individual to serve on the pension plan’s Board of Trustees. That position is presently held by the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s chief actuary.