N.H. legislators strike deal on changes to public pension system
CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire workers considering retiring in the face of almost certain changes in public pension benefits would have until Jan. 1 to become vested and avoid being affected by most of the changes under a tentative agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators yesterday.
House and Senate negotiators working on changes to the system agreed to change the date most changes would affect vested workers to Jan. 1 from Dec. 1. Negotiators are to return to the table Tuesday to continue work toward a compromise on the bill.
Negotiators initially agreed to the Dec. 1 date after hundreds of workers began filing for retirement, not knowing what pension changes might affect them if the law changed July 1. Negotiators wanted the workers to hold off until they could assess how the benefit changes affected them.
Negotiators have been meeting to discuss proposed plans that would increase the cost of pensions for firefighters, police, and state and municipal workers. The plans are intended to spare property taxpayers the rising costs of funding the pension system.
Negotiators agreed to change the date most changes would affect workers who have the 10 years in the retirement system needed to be vested. Under yesterday’s agreement, they would have until Jan. 1 to reach the 10-year mark. The shift would give the New Hampshire Retirement System six months to prepare for the changes, assuming the bill became law July 1.
In earlier negotiations, the two sides agreed that vested workers would pay higher pension contributions beginning July 1, but most changes would apply only to those hired after that date.
The public pension system covers more than 50,000 active and nearly 26,000 retired state and municipal workers, teachers, police, and firefighters.
Negotiators propose raising active employees’ contribution rates on July 1 to ease the burden on employers. Teachers and state and municipal workers would pay 7 percent instead of 5 percent. Firefighters’ contribution would rise from 9.3 percent to 11.8 percent. Police would pay 11.55 percent instead of 9.3 percent.
Many of the proposed changes agreed to so far would affect only workers hired after July 1. For example, newly hired state workers, municipal workers, and teachers could not collect retirement benefits until age 65 even if they retired earlier. Currently, the workers can retire before age 65 and get a reduced pension.