Committee focuses on two retirement measures

A state Senate retirement leader Monday pulled the plug on legislation aimed at providing a mechanism for cost-of-living increases in pension checks.

Senate Retirement Committee Chairman Elbert Guillory acknowledged opposition to the move from Louisiana’s four state retirement systems to his Senate Bill 11, which would have increased employee contributions and reduced benefits.

“It is understandable that our workers are not eager to fund this new benefit,” Guillory, D-Opelousas, said. “It would be the first major new benefit given to our workers since I had an Afro.”

The issue of how to pay for cost-of-living adjustments needs to be addressed, Guillory said. Many older retirees are living in poverty and taxpayers aren’t willing to fund it, he said.

Guillory urged the retirement systems to come up with a proposal.

“It won’t be resurrected unless and until you ask for it,” he said.

The legislation covered state employee, teachers, school employee and State Police retirement systems.

In another pension development, the Senate Retirement Committee rewrote, then approved a bill that would reduce pension benefits for future members of state and statewide pension systems.

The Senate Retirement Committee voted 4-2 to approve the legislation amid protests over procedures used to revive and pass the measure that failed to pass last week.

State Sen. Barrow Peacock’s Senate Bill 7 started out changing the final average compensation on which pension benefits are based from 36 months to 60 months for state and statewide retirement systems. The move would have effectively diminished checks of tens of thousands of public employees at the state and local level.

On Monday, Peacock revamped the measure to apply to new members of the systems, addressing a complaint that applying the change to current employees would unconstitutionally break employment contracts.

Peacock said the legislation will help “a little” with efforts to improve the long-term finances of the various government pension plans.

The newly revamped legislation will be given a new bill number.

Firefighters’ Retirement System of Louisiana Director Steven Stockstill complained that the panel was violating Senate rules and state law that require a legislative actuary analysis prior to legislation being taken up in committee.

He asked for a one-week postponement.

Committee Chairman Guillory said the revamp won’t become a bill until it gets a new number. He said the legislation will have an actuarial note before it is heard in the state Senate.