March 06, 2008
Contact: Laura Hainey, President, New Hampshire AFT-NH, 603-661-7293
David Lang, President, PFFNH, 603-437-0035
Bradford Police Chief James S. Valiquet, 603-938-2522
Gary Smith, President, SEA of New Hampshire, 603-271-3411
Coalition of 70K Employees Forms to Protect Retirement Security
The New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition Unified on HB1645
New Hampshire Employees United in Call for Fiscally Responsible Approach for Retirement Funding and Ensuing Delivery of Vital Public Services
CONCORD, NH — More than 70,000 active and retired first responders, teachers and public workers have united to launch the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition. The coalition is dedicated to ensuring New Hampshire workers who teach our children, police our streets, and fight our fires can depend on a stable and modest retirement income after a career of public service.
“The New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition believes that retirement is a shared employee and employer responsibility, and must be done in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Laura Hainey, president of American Federation of Teachers in New Hampshire (AFT-NH). “We are committed to continuing to work with the legislature and Governor John Lynch toward retirement security for New Hampshire’s public servants.”
The coalition is supportive of efforts to maintain defined benefit pension and health care benefits for retired public employees provided by the New Hampshire Retirement System (NHRS) and to ensure the long-term viability of the plan for current and future public employees. These benefits are essential tools for recruiting and retaining a skilled and qualified workforce—educators, first responders, and other essential public servants—to provide vital services for the citizens of New Hampshire.
“Taxpayers can’t afford to lose a high quality, experienced workforce that carries out vital services such as educating our children, protecting our streets, firefighting, disaster response and providing for homeland security,” said David Lang, president of the Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire (PFFNH).
Taxpayers rely upon the public servants represented by the coalition to provide vital services such as emergency and first response including medical aid, 911 and disaster response, police protection, administration and investigation, and firefighting, as well as healthcare services, child welfare protection, health inspections, forensic investigations, education for children in grades K-12 and college, and prison & correctional services.
The coalition is also announcing its opposition to House Bill 1645 as introduced. This legislation will impair future retirement security of workers; will result in increased costs to taxpayers, and put public services at risk, according to the newly formed group.
House Bill 653, enacted last session, provided a first step to put the NHRS on track toward improved funding. It required shared responsibility by both employees and employers. The coalition remains committed to this legislation, as it is a fiscally responsible solution for improving plan funding.
According to the Coalition, HB 1645 will not solve the issues facing the retirement system. Rather than improving funding, it fails to address employers’ responsibility to fund the system’s $2.7 billion obligation. The legislation fails to address the misguided practice of lowering the appropriate contribution rate necessary from employers to fund the core of the pension, the medical subsidy and cost of living adjustments. HB 1645 will serve to increase costs to taxpayers and puts vital public services at risk.
Additionally, it does not reflect the Majority Report issued by the Pension Commission. This legislation will undermine the Retirement Board structure and the important positive role that trustees serve. The Coalition does not support an employee-only contribution to fund supplemental allowances in the future.
“For the past 26 years, New Hampshire public workers have faithfully made continuous and on-time contributions to the retirement fund – nearly 21 percent of the assets in the system,” said Bradford Police Chief James S. Valiquet, a coalition member and member of the House Bill 876 Study Commission. “And, because the retirement benefits are pre-funded and invested under direction of trustees, some 64% of retirement benefits are paid with investment earnings. The coalition simply is asking that the Legislature keep its commitment to pay their 15% promised portion into the fund for workers who often are in high risk, lower paying jobs.”
Valiquet concluded, “HB 1645 should be heavily amended to focus more closely on the intent of the commission.”
The study commission met over 5 months in late 2007 and conducted a comprehensive review of the Retirement System's funding, benefits, and investment results as well as its current financial status, governance structure and future challenges culminating in a series of recommendations included in its final report dated January 2, 2008.
Member organizations of the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition include:
American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 93
American Federation of Teachers – New Hampshire
NEA - New Hampshire
New Hampshire AFL-CIO
New Hampshire Association of Fire Chiefs
New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police
New Hampshire Association of Retired Law Enforcement Officers
New Hampshire Police Association
New Hampshire Retired Educators Association
New Hampshire State Permanent Fire Fighters Retirement Association
New Hampshire Troopers Association
Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire
State Employees Association of New Hampshire – SEIU Local 1984