Conference committee deadlocks on retirement measure

2013-02-21T23:30:00Z Conference committee deadlocks on retirement measureBy JOAN BARRON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
February 21, 2013 11:30 pm  • 

CHEYENNE — A House-Senate conference committee deadlocked Thursday over a bill to increase the contributions to the state's retirement system.

Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, chairman of the House conference, said no request will be made for a second committee review and the bill is dead for the session.

The House members voted for the House position, which was for a 1 percent increase in the contribution with all of the increase to be paid by the employers.

The Senate members held fast to the Senate's position, which was for employers and employees to each pay one-half of 1 percent into the fund.

"We're stuck," Harshman said after one tied vote.

Harshman said the House's idea was that the 1 percent increase in the employer-paid contribution was to be part of the employee compensation package.

Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, the chairman of the Senate committee, said that in his world of private business employees pay at least one half the cost of their retirement plan.

Public employees now pay 1.43 percent of their pay into the state retirement system.

The purpose of HB250 was to protect the big state employee retirement plan from a potential increase in the system's unfunded liability. Although the system's funded liability is currently at 81.9 percent, it is trending downward slightly. The liability totals $2.9 billion over 30 years.

The retirement system has more than 91,000 active and retired employees and administers nine difference plans, including the big plan, which covers public employees as well as employees in K-12 and at the University of Wyoming and the community colleges.

About 90 percent of the school districts pay 100 percent of their employees retirement contributions.

To help the retirement system, the Legislature has increased the retirement age from 60 to 65 and changed the benefits calculation from the last three years of pay to the last five years.

As for compensation, the Legislature this session authorized a 1 percent one-time bonus for public employees at a cost of $5.8 million. Gov. Matt Mead had requested $8.5 million for salary increases and $2.5 million for one-time merit-based bonuses for state employees, including University of Wyoming and community college personnel.

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