Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Thousands of Utah public servants in Utah rally at the Capitol in Salt Lake City to protest potential changes in state retirement plan

From John Curry, February 9, 2010
February 6, 2010
(Click images to enlarge)
SALT LAKE CITY - It was a dramatic day at the Utah Capitol as thousands of public employees, policemen, and teachers rallied on the capitol lawn. They were protesting potential changes to the state retirement plan. About 4,000 people turned out for the rally.
state retirement system covers 182,000 current and former employees. The recession led to a 6.5 billion dollar shortfall with the system. Sen. Dan Liljenquist of Bountiful is proposing a set of retirement reform bills. "There are no reductions for current employees. We will meet 100-percent of our obligations," said Liljenquist.
With one proposed bill, employees hired after July 1st, 2011 would have to invest in a 401-k type program or put their money into a pension plan with greatly reduced benefits. Liljenquist said, "This is still a very rich retirement. It's two to four times larger than in any the private sector is offering." Teacher Stephanie Povey said, "Even though that might not affect me, it will affect the future teachers that are attracted to this profession. And it will really stop them from considering this as a career."
A second bill will stop payments to retired workers that have been re-hired. It's a prac
tice known as double-dipping where people collect both a paycheck and a pension. Liljenquist says the bill is important because, "The problem is that it's changing behavior. We're changing the pension system from a retirement system to a supplemental income system."
Many people at the rally accused Liljenquist of moving too quickly. They say the s
ystem doesn't need overhauling. "It's good. And Liljenquist's knee-jerk reaction to fixing it is not needed," said teacher Kate Cotterall. But Liljenquist says without action the state risks not meeting its current retirement obligations. "We need to make very careful steps, certainly, but to delay too long is to exacerbate the problem."
The retirement system changes are expected to go before a senate committee on Wednesday.
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