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A Work in Progress | The Pelican Post










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A Work in Progress

Budget, Featured, Pelican Site Featured — By on May 2, 2012 5:53 am
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Senators will soon be asked to make more than a dozen changes to the administration’s top retirement bills. Here’s an inside look at the proposed amendments — and how they came about. 

By JEREMY ALFORD

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposals to boost employee contributions, alter benefit calculations and increase the official retirement age will soon undergo substantive changes during floor debate in the Upper Chamber.

Senate Retirement Chairman Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas, said his bills — SB 52, SB 47 and SB 749 — may come up for debate as soon as Thursday, although it’s likely they could be put on hold until early next week.

“We’ve got these bills on a very slow track,” Guillory said. “We’ve come up with a lot of favorable changes for the the bills that will make them less troublesome for state workers. But we want to make sure everyone has enough time to look at them.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Guillory was able to detail more than a dozen individual changes that will be proposed for his bills when they’re taken up this week or next.

The latest compromise would allow new employees, under the proposed system, to retire with actuarially-reduced benefits after 20 years of service, regardless of their age.

It probably won’t be the last compromise, Guillory said.

“There’s no stopping point. We’re actively taking ideas and will continue to,” he said. “Senators are still thinking about it and every single day we get at least two new ideas to consider.”

Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, said it’s more like the bills are being scaled back in response to overwhelming controversy.

“This will be third time the retirement bills will be re-written to attempt to mitigate the serious and sustained criticism they’ve garnered,” Peterson said.

With the state’s unfunded accrued liability nearing $19 billion, Guillory argued that the state needs to find a compromise on true pension reform.

The UAL refers to the gap between what the systems have on hand to pay future benefits versus what they’ve promised.

“We’ve got do something about it now, not later,” Guillory said. “We need to make this work. Louisiana is not a Cadillac state. It’s a Volkswagen state.”

As for which proposal is generating the most noise — or “heartburn,” as Guillory calls it — the bill increasing the retirement age to 67 should be the most challenging to advance.

“It has definitely generated to most concern,” he added.

That’s among the reasons Guillory said he’s trying to slow down the retirement train.

“This is not like the education bills. We want to move these bills at a comfortable pace,” he said. “I want to let state workers know that we care. I think they felt fed up earlier in the process. Now we’re being more responsive.”

What follows is a look at all of the proposed amendments for each bill as they were being filed with Senate staffers Tuesday afternoon. All information and interpretations were provided by Guillory.

Senate Bill 52 (Increasing contributions by 3 percent) 

– Implementation delayed until July 1, 2013. Allows the system time to properly implement the changes. Allows employees adequate time to make life altering decisions.

– Starting July 1, 2013, the increased employee contribution will be phased in by 1 percent in 2013-14, then an additional point for 2 percent in 2014-15, and then the full 3 percent in 2015-16.

– Judges will be exempted.

– All money to stay with the system permanently.

Senate Bill 47 (Uses a five-year final average compensation model)

– Implementation delayed until July 1, 2013.

– Phase in the change from 36 months to 60 months in one-month increments. A 60-month FAC will apply to people who retire on or after July 1, 2015.

– Judges will be exempted.

– Current elected officials are included, but there will be a system created that allows them to opt out.

– All savings/cost reductions will stay with the system permanently.

Senate Bill 749 (Increases the retirement age to 67)

– Implementation delayed until July 1, 2013.

– All savings/cost reductions will stay with the system permanently.

– New age requirement will not apply to anyone who has 20 years of service on June 30, 2013, in light of the LASERS definition of “vested right.”

– Retains a 30-year bumper allowing any current employee who retires with 30 or more years of service credit to retire under present law, not the new law that would take effect.

– Use the Senate increased age phase-in that’s based on service credit as of June 30, 2013. New hires would have to wait until age 67; employees with 15-20 years, age 59; employees with 10-15 years, age 61; employees with 5-10 years, age 63; and employees with fewer than five years, age 65.

– Preserves benefits of people who are “terminated vested” (not in state service) as of June 30, 2013, and who do not return to state service. Benefit is “frozen” on the last day of service.

– Includes all elected officials, again with an opt-out provision.

– Exempts LSU lab school teachers.


Jeremy Alford is a freelance journalist based in Baton Rouge. You can reach him directly by visiting www.jeremyalford.com or follow his work at www.thepoliticaldesk.com and @alfordwrites.

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