New Hampshire Lawmakers Debate Sweeping Pension Reform

May 19, 2008 ( - The New Hampshire state legislature continues grappling with sweeping pension reform proposals to shore up the state's public pension system that is currently 63% funded.

A news report said New Hampshire lawmakers face a May 30 deadline to hammer out an agreement for the pension program that is short more than $2.7 billion. There are also multimillion-dollar problems in funding health insurance subsidies, cost of living increases, and health insurance for retired state workers.

According to the news account the New Hampshire House voted 269-90 last week to again pass its version of reform to continue work started last year to shore up the $6 billion state retirement system. B oth legislative chambers would shift $250 million from an account used to pay for cost-of-living increases into the main pension fund to ease increases charged back to local governments.

class=”articlegraf”> Also, both the House and Senate reform measures would establish a commission to study ways to provide health care to retirees not eligible for a health insurance subsidy – which includes most currently active employees. The commission also would study how to pay for future cost-of-living increases.

class=”articlegraf”> also indicated that:

  • The two chambers differ on what to do about the health insurance subsidy and cost-of-living increases in the next few years. Labor groups are backing the Senate’s proposals.
  • Both chambers propose helping government workers living on the smallest pensions by setting a minimum to be paid in an extra check.
  • The House proposes giving retirees a supplemental check equal to no more than 2.5 % of the median pension benefit, but at least $500.
  • The Senate would give retirees 2.5% cost-of-living increases for four years, but the increases would only apply to their first $40,000 in pension payments – capped at $1,000.
  • The Senate also proposes giving retirees with 15 years or more experience and receiving pensions of $20,000 or less an extra $1,000 check that would not be added to the base pay used to calculate cost-of-living increases.
  • The House also proposes requiring police and firefighters to work 25 years and be age 50 instead of 20 years and age 45 to be eligible to retire.
  • One controversial provision would change the makeup of the board of trustees by giving employee groups less representation. The House proposes reducing the number of employee representatives, but the Senate would keep the same board membership.