NH Senate Approves Sweeping Pension Reform

March 18, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – The New Hampshire State Senate has passed a pension reform bill that critics say will result in more lawsuits by workers protesting changes to promised benefits.

The Union Leader reports that the bill raises the amount workers must contribute to their pensions, adds five years to the career requirement for police and firefighters, and cuts retirement benefits for workers who have fewer than 10 years of service (see NH Legislators Propose Wide-Ranging State Pension Revisions). It was amended to phase in changes for workers with less than 10 years’ experience, making the smallest changes for those closest to full vesting.  

The news report said estimates are that the New Hampshire Retirement System now faces $3.7 billion in unfunded long-term pension liabilities, and another $900 million in unfunded health subsidy benefits.  

Senator Jeb Bradley, prime sponsor of the bill, contended it must pass to avoid worse problems in the future. “This bill begins to make sure the system is stable and viable for the people who depend on it,” he said, according to the Union Leader.  

Bradley said problems in the system are so severe that taxpayers alone can’t bear the burden — public workers have to step up, too.  

Governor John Lynch has also proposed changes to the system, but wants them to apply only to workers hired after July 1, 2011. Republican senators rejected several Democratic amendments yesterday that would have brought SB 3 more in line with Lynch’s version.  

The bill moves next to the Senate Finance Committee for more analysis.