Pearson Passes Pair Of Bills Easing Financial Crunch From State Pensions; Jindal’s Legislation Sitting Idle On House Floor

From a release out of the office of State Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell) comes some news on retirement legislation which would reel in some of the runaway costs of state pension programs and pay down unfunded accrued liabilities…

Two landmark pieces of legislation that will save taxpayers money while shoring-up the state’s struggling retirements systems cleared the House of Representatives yesterday.

House Bills 530 and 332, both by House Retirement Chairman Kevin Pearson (R-76), passed the House by wide margins and are now awaiting Senate action.  If enacted, HB530 and HB332 will save the state and local governments money by reforming the Louisiana’s bloated pension system.

HB530 would change the way in which retirement benefits are calculated in the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System (LASERS) and the Teachers Retirement System (TRSL) by basing the average compensation over the past five years, rather than three years.   The estimated $55 million in annual savings would help pay down the Unfunded Accrued Liability (UAL).  HB530 was approved in the House by a vote of 76-20.

In response to recent spikes in employer contributions to the Municipal Police Employees Retirement System, Pearson introduced HB332, which reduces the financial burdens on cities and fire departments by shifting law enforcement and firefighter pension costs from the employer to employees as the cost to the local government increases. Similarly, as employer cost decline, employee contributions would decrease.  HB332 was approved in the House by a 68-24 vote.

HB530 and HB332 are now pending introduction into the Senate.

Word is the Jindal administration is lukewarm on Pearson’s bills. They’ve got their own pension reform legislation – specifically HB 479 by Rep. Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge) which would increase the employee contribution to state pension plans from eight percent to 11 percent; the effect of which would be to deposit the savings into the general fund and reduce the deficit rather than paying down the liabilities. The bill has generated a lot of controversy, in that House Speaker Jim Tucker considered the increased pension contribution as a payroll tax rightly or wrongly since the effect would be to use those revenues to balance the budget. HB 479 was deferred on the House calendar Thursday and is languishing as it waits for a vote.

Pearson’s bills are the ones moving to the Senate instead.

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