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Monday, May 11, 2009

Closer to Pension Deal?

Kevin Landrigan reports in the Nashua Telegraph that there is progress towards working out of the state's huge pension deficit:
Concessions in pension deal

Don't look now, but there's a seismic breakthrough in a three-year effort by House leaders to get local and state police officers and firefighters to work longer before getting their pension.

Currently, these employees in Group II of the N.H. Retirement System can retire with a pension working after 20 years and reaching the age of 45.

The House has wanted and the Senate has balked at moving both standards to 25 years work and age 50.

The deal's not done yet, but union leaders made a big-time concession agreeing to a compromise that emerged before the Senate Executive Departments and Administration on Thursday.

This new plan would compel all law enforcement officials hired after July 1 to work at least 25 years to get a pension without changing the age limit.

Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire President David Lang said today's public safety officers are getting years of training and/or post high school education, so they are practically low- to mid-20s before coming on the job.

"In a sense, the Senate is agreeing to meet the House more than halfway,'' Lang said. "I think this is a solution under which we can put forward a workable plan."

The bipartisan group of senators working on it included Barrington Democrat Jackie Cilley, Manchester Democrat Betsi DeVries, Salem Republican Michael Downing and Londonderry Republican Sharon Carson.

The Senate is likely to approve it next week.

On a related front, the Senate is expected to kill the House-passed ban on counting privately paid special duty pay as part of compensation that counts in a pension (HB 532).

A Senate panel unanimously recommends it die. The subject won't end there, because Cilley has told associates she will urge D'Allesandro to address the subject in the trailer bill to the state budget (HB 2).

Cilley supports the proposal of Rep. Patricia McMahon, D-Sutton to make sure the state gets 35 percent of any special duty payments that are now given to cities and towns when they approve these private details.

According to one estimate, this could amount to a $1 million windfall for the state over a two-year budget cycle.

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