Lawmakers fix pension plan
Members of the General Assembly returned to the Statehouse recently to take action on a series of landmark reforms to Ohio’s five public pension systems, seeking to strengthen and protect retirement benefits for nearly 1.8 million Ohioans.
Ohio has five state retirement systems – the Public Employees Retirement System, the Police and Fire Pension Fund, the Service Employees Retirement System, the State Teachers Retirement System and the State Highway Patrol Retirement System.
By law, each system is required to be able to meet their obligations within a 30-year timeframe. The struggling economy, combined with rising health care costs and the fact that retirees are living longer made it necessary for the systems to make adjustments in order to meet their obligations.
As a result, the boards of the pension systems came up with a series of recommendations to ensure their long-term stability. These changes cover a variety of areas, including how benefits are calculated and retirement eligibility requirements, and are phased in over a period of years in order to minimize the impact on members who are close to retirement age.
These adjustments are estimated to save the pension plans millions of dollars per year and maintain their ability to offer healthcare and other benefits to members.
Each system addressed their responsibilities a little differently so as to best meet the needs of its members. The five bills approved by my colleagues and I are the result of years of work, and include only those changes supported by the systems’ boards, members and stakeholders.
It was especially important to me that the alterations do not rely on additional taxpayer support and were passed with strong bipartisan support.
The Ohio Senate approved the pension reform package in May, and members of the Ohio House of Representatives spent much of the summer holding hearings on the issue and gathering feedback from interested parties.
In July, an actuarial report commissioned by the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) issued a report that found Ohio’s pension system structure is solid, but changes beyond what was recommended by the boards may be necessary in the future.
Moving forward, ORSC and members of the legislature will continue to work collaboratively with the pension systems to pinpoint other areas where changes are needed in order to ensure the long-term stability of the pension plans and preserve the benefits that more than 400,000 current retirees depend on each month.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about any of the matters we are discussing at the Statehouse.
Sen. Bob Peterson represents the 17th Ohio Senate District, which encompasses Clinton, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Pike, Ross and Vinton counties and portions of Lawrence and Pickaway counties. You can reach my office by phone at (614) 466-8156, by e-mail at Peterson@OhioSenate.gov or by writing State Senator Bob Peterson, Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215. For more information, please visit http://OhioSenate.gov/Peterson.