Friday, June 20, 2008

Special session is on

The first (and hopefully only) special session of 2008 begins Monday. The topic is the pension system, which is currently $26 billion in the hole.

This desperately needs to be done. Overall the plan is a good start. We are taking some steps to stop the bleeding. However, this is akin to putting a band aid on a head wound. This will not fix the problem. It will slow down the rate at which we fall behind. But it must be done. Local Governments and school boards will be beneficiaries of these changes.

The Governor deserves credit for getting the issue moving again. The Senate President David Williams deserves credit for repeatedly saying that more needs to be done. Both the House and Senate leadership deserve credit for getting together and working this out.

That said, there are a couple issues I have with the legislation as I understand it. All I have seen thus far is a summary of the changes. First, it eliminates double dipping for all employees (which is good), except for Legislators (which is bad). Translation: If you are a current public employee, you can retire from your job with your full pension, come back some time later and start working on your second pension. This bill will eliminate that for future employees, and you can only have the first pension, unless you come back as a legislator or a Judge, then you can have that second pension. I think that is wrong and sends the wrong message. Perhaps this was an oversight in the summary, or I missed it. But I don't think so. Update- See above post for more information on this topic. The second issue I have is that there will be a schedule for the state to make the actuarial correct payment amount to the retirement fund. The percent will go up every year until the state makes the proper payment amount in 2025. That is 17 years from now. Not making the necessary payments is part of what has gotten us in this situation of the years. I would rather see this schedule accelerated.

Comprehensive bills like this always have little issues that every legislator can complain about. You have to consider if the bill does more good than bad. This bill is about 99% good. I look forward to voting for it.