House to work on state pension overhaul
House Speaker William O';Brien said the Special House Committee on Defined Contribution Retirement Plans for Public Employees will be asked to provide the House with details and procedures for moving from the defined-benefit plan state employees currently have to a defined-contribution plan for all new state employee hires.
';It';s just not something we can wait for,'; O';Brien said. ';This is necessary to ensure we can have a state government that we can afford.';
The committee can ask for proposals and information from vendors, O';Brien said.
A defined-benefits plan provides employees a set amount at retirement based on salary and length of service. A defined-contribution plan sets an amount to be invested by employees and employers.
The committee';s formation comes on the heels of legislation adopted by the House in the spring to set up a defined-contribution plan that wasn';t adopted by the Senate.
The Senate referred the matter to a study commission in April after finding technical problems with the House bill, which would have set up a retirement plan similar to 401k plans for state employees. State employees are enrolled in the New Hampshire Retirement System, which has an unfunded liability of about $4 billion.
Diana Lacey, president of the State Employees Association Local 1984, questioned the committee';s formation, given that the NHRS estimated that converting the plan could creating a $1.2 billion unfunded actuarial accrued liability.
';Why is the speaker trying to push a solution that the Legislature has already said would cost New Hampshire taxpayers millions?'; said Lacey.
She also criticized the committee formation as redundant, given the Senate';s action and pension reforms that were adopted last year.
';This one';s been studied and studied and studied,'; she said.
O';Brien said he didn';t consider the House committee to be redundant and said the House has a duty to act independent of the Senate.
';We decided not to sit around for the next six months until the next session begins in January,'; he said. ';We want to make sure that, when we draft legislation, that there are no questions left unanswered.';
The committee';s deadline is Nov. 1, five days before the election, which could see many House members, O';Brien included, no longer in office. No matter, O';Brien said.
';I certainly expect we';re going to have a Republican majority, a conservative majority, and that I will be speaker,'; he said. ';But even if I am not speaker, this is work that needs to be done.';
He said he is asking for support from Democrats and noted the appointment of three ';senior'; Democrats, Reps. Steven Shurtleff, David Campbell and Robert Foose, to the 11-member committee, which he said is ';proportional'; to the overall political makeup of the House.
';This should not be just a partisan effort or from one leadership team,'; O';Brien said. ';Whoever is in the majority (in 2013), we hope will bring it forward with bipartisan support.
';This is just a problem that needs to be solved,'; he said. ';People ought to be encouraged that we';re not just sitting back and sweeping this under the rug while we try to get reelected.';