Arizona House passes police and fire pension overhaul

PHOENIX (AP) –

The Arizona House on Thursday passed a proposal overhauling the state’s badly underfunded public safety worker pension plan despite growing concerns from several Republicans that the changes didn’t do enough to fix the plan’s problems.

Relatively minor changes made before the trio of 49-10 votes mean the package of three bills must return to the Senate for final approval before heading to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.

A portion of the legislation requires voter approval because it changes benefits for current employees. The Senate must act on the revisions Monday to meet a deadline for placement on the May 17 special election ballot.

The 10 Republicans who voted against the bills said they were concerned with the math used to measure the small savings in the proposal. They worried that it did little to actually fix the retirement system.

“I don’t think this really fixes anything,” Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert. “I think it puts a Band-Aid on it for a period of time.”

Farnsworth also said the constitutional changes in the plan were poorly enacted.

Senate President Andy Biggs said he believes the overhaul, while bringing modest savings in early years, sets the state police and fire pension plan on a path to stability. The state Constitution and contract law means the state can’t lower promised pensions.

“The thing to remember is the people who are under the contracts already, you can’t change a contract that’s already there,” Biggs said. “But what you can do is lay a foundation for a stable and balanced fund going forward – and that’s really what this bill does.”…

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