Monday, April 23, 2012

Retirement bills taking center stage

Now that major elements of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education package have been steamrolled through the legislature, attention is turning to the bills filed on his behalf that change state retirement systems.

Teacher and school employee system merger: Only one of the bills directly affects K-12 teachers and school employees – HB 60 by Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), which would merge the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana and the Louisiana School Employees Retirement System. That bill was changed so drastically on the House floor (it ballooned from 10 pages to 86 pages) that it was assigned a new number, HB 1198 by Rep. Pearson.

LFT opposes the bill because both systems work well, provide better retirement security than the private market and have earned the confidence of their members. It will be heard on the House floor on April 25.

The merger would abolish LSERS and transfer all its property, rights, obligations and employees into the Teachers’ system. In the process, 30 employees would lose their jobs within a year. That greatly increases the work load on remaining staff, and could cause a reduction in services for the members of the merged systems.

Why other retirement bills should concern educators

Other retirement bills in the governor’s package pose a threat to K-12 educators, even though they are not directly mentioned. The net effect of the Jindal plan is to dismantle the state‘s defined benefit retirement system. The ultimate objective is to replace pensions with market-based plans, putting employee retirement into 401(k)-type investment plans that do not guarantee an income.

If the governor succeeds in dismantling state employee pension systems, there is little doubt that teacher and school employee pensions will be next.

To read about specific retirement bills, please click here.

No comments: