CONCORD — A bill that seeks to limit the income of “double dipper” public pensioners is recommended by lawmakers as “ought to pass,” according to the New Hampshire Retirement System, the pension pool for police, fire, school and other public employees.
In a Wednesday memo, the NHRS announced House Bill 561 was amended in the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee and, if passed as expected, will limit the number of hours pensioners can work at post-retirement jobs for employers in the public retirement system. The bill seeks to reduce the current 32-hour weekly limit of hours worked by pensioners at other public jobs, to 1,040 hours a year. That would mean a reduction of 624 hours a year and anyone found to have exceeded the limit would lose the employer-funded portion of their pension for a year, according to the proposed law.
The bill, as currently written, also states public retirees would have to wait 60 days from when they retire to the day they start working a subsequent public job. If passed by the Senate, the bill will be sent to the House and the NHRS has advised its members the legislation is recommended likely to pass.
The limits are based on the recommendation of the Decennial Retirement Commission, which was formed by law to “ensure the long-term viability of the retirement system” that has a $5 billion unfunded liability. The liability is the difference between promised pensions and funds in the retirement program. When public pensioners work post-retirement jobs, they’re no longer contributing to the retirement system, from which their pensions are drawn.
NHRS Executive Director George Lagos announced in October 2016 that 70 percent of the state’s public employers have a public retiree on the payroll so he was bringing the topic of double dipping to the DRC. He also raised the question about whether some jobs being performed by public pensioners can be accomplished in 32 hours a week.
“Common sense tells us that there is some doubt about whether or not certain managerial positions now categorized as part-time are truly capable of being accomplished within a 32-hour week, and whether those who are engaged in those positions are recording their time accurately and truly limiting themselves to no more than 32 hours,” he wrote.
In March, the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition – comprised of police, fire, teachers and other public employees unions – endorsed efforts to curb double-dipping. In a press statement, the union said double-dipping pensioners are “gaming” the NHRS.
“It’s fiscally responsible for both the system and employers,” said Portsmouth Fire Capt. Bill McQuillen, president of the NHRSC and the statewide firefighters’ union, about the proposed pension reform.
He said firefighters hear time and again at bargaining tables that the costs to employ firefighters gets more costly due to pension costs. “This is an opportunity to address that,” he said.
The proposed law is expected to be reviewed by the Legislature in January and, if passed, would have an effective date of January 2019.