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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

February 25, 2013 at 3:51 PM

Senate Ways and Means hears bill to replace state pension system

OLYMPIA — The state Senate Ways and Means Committee heard a bill Monday that would place new public workers and existing employees younger than age 45 into a 401-K type retirement plan, instead of the existing state pension system.

Under the proposal, Senate Bill 5856, the state would move to a defined contribution plan for all teachers and state employees hired on or after July 1, 2014, and for all current employees under age 45 at that time.

The bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, argues the legislation is needed because it would save the state money.

The Association of Washington Business supports the measure, arguing the private sector is rapidly moving this direction and the state should as well.

If Tom’s bill doesn’t gain support, the Legislature should still pursue the issue, said Amber Carter, who testified on behalf of the AWB. “You will need to do something with the issue soon,” she said.

Labor groups opposed the legislation, arguing the current state pension system is in good shape and there’s no need to change. “We think this is a gratuitous attack on the work force, whose morale is already low,” said Greg Devereux, executive director of the Washington Federation of State Employees.

Tom has talked often about getting rid of the state pension system. However he was the only senator to sign onto the measure. He would not speculate on the bill’s chances of making it out of committee.

If the bill did get passed by the Senate, it would probably die in the Democratically-controlled House. “I don’t think that’s likely to go anywhere,” said House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina.

Comments | More in Politics Northwest, State Legislature | Topics: pension system, rodney tom

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