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NH House Takes "A Step Backwards" in Retirement Funding Reform

May 15, 2008

Concord, NH - Senators and members of some labor groups are convinced the New Hampshire House has taken a big step backward in the debate about state employees' retirement plans. On Wednesday, the House passed a bill replacing Senate language with text that Senators had already turned down, which set up a showdown in negotiations between the two chambers.

Differences between the two bills include subsidies for healthcare coverage and an extra check for the lowest-paid group of retirees. The House proposal also would require police and firefighters to work five more years before qualifying for their pensions. Jay Ward with the State Employees Association of New Hampshire says, labor groups and Senators are puzzled by the House positions.

"I think the Senate is looking at the problems individually and trying to craft something that fixes all of them, rather than taking a hard-line stance like the House has done."

Ward believes the squabble has less to do with who controls the State House than it does with sound economic policy.

"We would have expected a little bit more out of the Democrats, but I don't know if it's strictly a labor issue - it's also an issue of fairness, and a matter of good public policy. We should encourage decent retirement benefits for all workers."

At this point, both chambers tout their own proposals as the best value, both for taxpayers and retirees.

John Robinson/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - NH