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Act to shore up pension system

May 9, 2012
Salem News

Every day that passes without implementation of reforms in Ohio's public employee pension systems may add millions of dollars to their unfunded liabilities. Yet some legislators worry premature action could be bad, too.

About $70 billion in unfunded liabilities burden the state's five public employee retirement programs, it has been estimated. Officials of all five have been told to recommend reforms to keep the systems solvent.

They have done just that, and the packages are awaiting approval by the General Assembly.

State Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, has said he wants his side of the legislature to approve the five plans by the end of this month. His spokeswoman pointed out it has been three years since solvency plans were suggested for the programs. "Some have said they are losing between $1 million and $2 million a day for every day we wait and not act," she added.

It is a different story on the other side of the Statehouse, however. There, state Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, does not expect action until late this year.

Schuring, a member of the Ohio Retirement Study Council, and some other representatives do not want to act on the solvency proposals immediately. They want to wait until another private study of the recommendations is completed. That should happen in July.

Members of the House of Representatives are right to want adequate information on the proposals. Implementing them will be of enormous importance to tens of thousands of public employees - and taxpayers - after all.

But predicting a delay until late in the year sounds suspiciously like some in the House want to avoid the political fallout from the actions, at least until after the November election.

Schuring and others who want to delay voting on the proposals should reconsider their timing. If they want to wait until the new report is issued in July, fine. But it should take only a few weeks after that for lawmakers to digest the new information and vote on the plans.



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