By Sean Barron
It appears likely a reform bill that will make key changes to and extend the solvency of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System will pass the full state Senate next month, an official with the state retirement system predicts.
“All indications from the [Ohio] House and Senate are that something will happen in September,” Jason Davis, an OPERS staff member, told about 100 employers, workers, retirees and others during the first of two town-hall meetings Wednesday in McKay Auditorium at Youngstown State University’s Beeghly College of Education.
He was referring to passage of Senate Bill 343, which aims to make changes to pensions for OPERS members based largely on key recommendations the system’s 11-member board of trustees had proposed in November 2009.
The legislation is tentatively set for a vote of the full Ohio House of Representatives on Sept. 12.
The two-hour session looked at proposed changes to OPERS’ health-care coverage plan and reviewed pending pension legislation.
Davis noted that delays in passing such legislation have resulted in OPERS losing more than $700 million in potential savings.
Failure to pass SB 343 likely will mean a 70-percent spending reduction to the health-care fund, which is funded by employer contributions and investments, Davis warned, adding that it also could run out of money by 2026.
In addition, the legislation is critical because the fund faces challenges such as skyrocketing health-care costs — especially during the past 12 years — and certain demographics.
For example, the number of retirees is estimated to double in about 15 years in part because people are living longer, he continued.
Passage would mean that 4 percent annual employer contributions would continue, thereby keeping the fund solvent longer, Davis noted.
Roughly 70,000 OPERS members have shown support for SB 343, he said.
The new law also would revamp the pension plan for current workers’ age and service eligibility, final average salary, cost-of- living adjustments and other factors, Laura Herr, an OPERS educator, told the audience.
One change is the so-called “anti-spiking” provision, which would prevent retirees’ benefits from being artificially inflated based on the average of their three highest years of salary, Herr explained.
For information, go to www.opers.org.