Alaskan Pension Overhaul Bill Seeing Final Changes Before House Vote

April 29, 2005 ( - Two Alaska pension overhaul bills have been given to four members of the state House Finance Committee, with the ultimate goal being a reconciled single proposal that can be forwarded to the full House.

>According to the Fairbanks News-Miner, three Republicans and one Democrat have less than two days to accomplish the task of coming up with a new version of the bill that will resolve differences that arose as the bill made its way through the legislative process (See  Alaska Grapples With Pension Reform ).

>The Finance Committee is the last step in the process of House committees, according to the paper; the bill would prevent the Alaska Public Employees’ Retirement and Teachers’ Retirement systems from going deeper into debt, according to its backers. Opponents label the bill an attack on the state’s defined benefit pension system. The two funds have a predicted long-term combined debt of $5.7 billion.

>A bill that would overhaul the system has already passed the Senate. The leader of the Finance Committee, however, did not think the current version would pass a House vote, and thus the order to alter it was handed down.

>At its most basic, the bill would allow new employees to have a defined contribution plan instead of the current defined benefit plan.

>State and local pension reform has been a hot issues as of late, with South Carolina, California, New York City and New Jersey all looking into reforming their defined benefit pension plans to take some of the burden away from the government for funding such systems (See Golden State Analysts: Pension Reform Could Save More than $1B ). Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has recently backed away from such strident criticism of the state’s pension plan, however.