Pension reform bill gets unanimous backing in Senate, veto of lowering voting age sustained

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Pension reform bill gets unanimous backing in Senate, veto of lowering voting age sustained

Thu, 03/31/2022 - 5:09pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Today, the Vermont Senate voted unanimously to advance S.286, Public Pension and Postemployment Benefits. Supporters call this balanced legislation where all sides contribute to the sustainability of our public pensions systems. Also today, Governor Scott's veto of H.361. An act relating to approval of amendments to the charter of the Town of Brattleboro, was sustained. That bill would have lowered the voting age in Brattleboro to 16. The vote was 15-12 in favor with 20 votes needed to override the veto. 

The governor has argued against making piecemeal changes to the voting laws, which he argues should be made statewide, if at all. 

For pension reform, there has been broad support as the pension and health insurance obligation for state employees and teachers continues to grow, without enough funding to sustain them. There is over a $3 billion deficit in the state’s public employee retirement fund. The state’s unfunded liabilities for healthcare benefits for retired state employees and teachers alone is $2.75 billion.

The pension bill:

  • Makes no changes to the benefits of current retirees and beneficiaries.

  • Invests $200 million in one-time funds toward unfunded pension liabilities and commits the state to ongoing additional payments.

  • Phases in higher employee contribution rates for active members and modifies the Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) formula for all employee groups.

Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint issued the following statement regarding the vote:  

This is a major win for Vermont public employees and for Vermont taxpayers. This is also a result that many thought impossible. The bill the Senate voted on today will protect the public pension system and will save Vermonters millions and millions of dollars over the coming years. 

Since we began our work to shore up our pension system, I have been clear that teachers and public employees had to be partners in finding the long-term solution. And that’s just what happened.

Together we protected the defined benefit plans that are so important to public employees and to us. Together we agreed to invest hundreds of millions of dollars. Together, teachers, public employees, and legislators found a positive way forward.

We know the House shares our goals on this bill. Now is the time for Governor Scott to show his support for public employees and get on board with the agreement we’ve all worked hard to reach.”

Office of the Senate President Pro Tempore 3.31.2022.