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Two Top Ohio Lawmakers Spar Over Timeline For Pension Reform
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Changes to the stateâ€™s five pension funds were discussed at the Statehouse quite a while ago â€“ but were never made. Now, a key lawmaker is promising legislation to make those alterations is on the fast track â€“ over the objections of another critical legislator.
Senate President Tom Niehaus says itâ€™s time to pass the recommendations that the management of the five pension funds have requested.
â€œItâ€™s been over two years. And I have said before I am personally embarrassed that we have not dealt with this issue before, because every day that we delay itâ€™s costing some of these, itâ€™s costing between a million and two million dollars a day every day we delay.â€ Says Niehaus.
But over in the House, the chair of the committee that would hear pension reform is urging lawmakers to slow down. Rep. Kirk Schuring is a Republican from Canton, and says he wants to wait till the release of a report on those changes commissioned by the Ohio Retirement Study Council, a panel of lawmakers, appointees and pension fund executives who advise the legislature on policy that affects the funds.
â€œCertainly the five systems have very competent people, competent actuaries, and they have offered their opinions to us. But just like if you or a loved one was contemplating major surgery, youâ€™d want to get a second opinion, The repercussions of what we do with this pension reform will last for a long, long time, as well they should.â€ Says Schuring.
The report is expected sometime this summer. As for the concern about the money that the pension funds are losing â€“ Schuring says in the time heâ€™s been on the Ohio Retirement Study Council, heâ€™s seen funds go up and down, but he doesnâ€™t feel passing pension reform is as urgent as Niehaus does.
â€œChanges are needed; we need to do it sometime this year.” Says Schuring. “I donâ€™t think weâ€™re at a crisis yet. Pew has done a number of different reports on the status of our five retirement systems in Ohio, and I have not heard the word â€˜crisisâ€™ used yet. Other states are in that situation. We are not.â€
But Niehaus says Schuringâ€™s reservations donâ€™t change his timeline of getting pension reform through the Senate by summer recess.
â€œThatâ€™s not my problem. Itâ€™s my hope that the House will reconsider. They will have an opportunity to do that as we pass legislation or they could take it up in the fall, but thatâ€™s their schedule.â€
Niehaus says heâ€™s also worried about retiree health care, which isnâ€™t required by law but is available. But Schuring says heâ€™s concerned that the retirement fundsâ€™ recommended changes might cut benefits to retirees to make more money available for health care, and that the study expected this summer would examine that issue.