This bill (HB2849 House Draft 1 – Employees’ Retirement System; Police Radio Dispatchers) is an opportunity to acknowledge, reward, and help recruit police dispatchers by enhancing their retirement benefits. This is something that I want to support but the other side of the coin is this.
Last year the legislature passed a law to establish a policy framework to enable the employees’ retirement system to eventually eliminate its 5.1 billion dollar unfunded liability. This body put a three year moratorium on retirement benefit enhancements including any reduction of retirement age when there is an unfunded accrued liability. A 5.1 billion dollar unfunded liability threatens the retirement benefits for future retirees whom we have already made retirement benefit promises to. We can not continue to make promises without fulfilling the ones we have already made.
Finance Chair and Speaker have periodically warned us about the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) requirements. Thanks to the hard work of our leadership, healthy interest earnings, and the state and county employers, what once was a 43 year estimated time to become fully funded is now reduced to approximately 25 years.
So what will this look like in dollar terms? State and county employers’ contributions are currently 489 million for this fiscal year. Starting June of this year it will be increased by 72 million per year thus totaling 561 million. This is a substantial increase in future expenditures.
I believe that these groups of workers deserve enhanced retirement benefits, but the moratorium was set in law for a reason. Disregarding it is schizophrenic and not fiscally responsible to taxpayers and future retirees.
Past legislatures have made conscious choices to put our retirement system into disrepair like our school buildings and university facilities. Let’s keep our promise to our state and county workers. Look around you, look around the state departments, these hard workers deserve to have security of the retirement benefits that they have already been promised.