Sept 12 Five bills aimed at improving the
funding status of Ohio's public pension funds won bipartisan
approval on Wednesday in the state House and Senate.
The measures for Ohio's Public Employees Retirement System,
Police and Fire Pension Fund, School Employees Retirement
System, and State Highway Patrol Retirement System were passed
unanimously in both Republican-controlled chambers, while a bill
for the State Teachers Retirement System attracted only one
vote against in the House.
Republican Governor John Kasich will sign the bills into
law, according to his spokesman.
Many states have passed or are considering ways to ease
growing pension liabilities to stop them from consuming more of
their still-sluggish revenue at the expense of education, health
care and public safety.
California lawmakers on Aug. 31 passed pension reforms aimed
at saving billions of dollars over 30 years, but
a special legislative session on pensions in Illinois last month
ended with no agreement on cost-saving moves.
The Ohio legislation, which takes effect Jan. 7, 2013,
includes various changes to increase the pension funds' bottom
lines, including bigger pension contributions from employees,
lower or capped cost-of-living increases for retirees and
changes to when workers are eligible to retire.
"We know the changes are not popular, but they are
necessary," said Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican.
He added legislation will not solve all the long-term
pension problems and that the funds will seek more changes in
Senate Democratic Leader Eric Kearney urged his caucus to
vote for the measures, saying they protect retirement benefits
for nearly 1.8 million Ohio public workers and retirees while
not requiring additional money from taxpayers.
The recession and a growing number of retirees necessitated
changes to allow the funds to meet their obligations and ensure
long-term stability, according to a statement from Senate
Ohio's pension liabilities were 67 percent funded in fiscal
2010, according to a report released in June by the Pew Center
on the States. That is below the 80 percent level considered
fiscally healthy for public retirement funds but above several
other states, including Illinois, which had the lowest funding
level at 45 percent.