Nov 17, 2012 3:12 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News

Schweitzer's pension bills die in committee

HELKENA - The legislative committee tasked with drafting a bill to fix Montana's pension system will not be bringing any legislation to do so.

Republicans sitting on the the State and Veterans Affairs (SAVA) Committee killed Governor Brian Schweitzer's (D) plan to fix the teacher's retirement system and the public employee's retirement system on Friday.

The public employee retirement system is facing a funding shortfall of $70 million per year, and the teacher's retirement system is facing an annual shortfall of $36 million.

Schweitzer is proposing two bills which address these shortfalls within a 40 year timeframe.

The first looks at the teacher's retirement system and requires employees to contribute an extra 1%. It would also dump about $25 million dollars of natural resource development money into the account.

The second bill addresses the public employee's retirement system and forces the employee and employer to each pay in an additional 1%. It would also use $3 million dollars of coal tax money to shore up the account.

The Montana Association of Counties (MACO) testified Schweitzer's bills would place financial hardship on local governments forcing them to cut services.

Representative Joanne Blyton (R - Joliet) said after hearing from MACO she couldn't support the bill.

Earlier this week, Schweitzer denied these allegations saying the most it would cost any county is just over $100,000.

Senator Larry Jent (D - Bozeman) said if the legislature continues to kick the can down the road the courts will step in and force a fix.

"The failure of the Legislature to do nothing until we get a swift kick to the posterior is disgusting," Jent told the members of SAVA.

Reporter's Note: Any one legislator could still carry Schweitzer's pension bills this next session.

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