Sheridan Town Hall on public pension system

Sheridan Town Hall on pensions draws 60

Fire fighter, others speak up for public pensions

System director says many levers ready to assure sustainability

Pensions managed by the Wyoming Retirement System promise stability to our teachers, fire fighters, police, nurses, and the many other people who devote their careers to public service in Wyoming. Wyoming’s system is healthy, especially in comparison to public systems in other states that have been under-funded or where funds were borrowed to support other programs. Nevertheless, Wyoming’s public pension system was the subject of considerable legislative effort in the 2012 Budget session, work that was carried over in the interim work of the Joint Appropriations Committee. During the Budget session, supporters of the system fended off a proposed bill that would have closed the existing defined benefit system and replaced it with a defined contribution plan. Other legislation did bring changes to the system. The Legislature imposed very conservative standards that for the forseeable future mean retirees will not see any cost of living adjustments to their monthly benefit. Tuesday night in Sheridan, some 65 people attended a town hall meeting sponsored by the Coalition for a Healthy

George Neeson, Sheridan fire fighter

Retirement System at Sheridan College. They heard from Sheridan fire fighter George Neeson, who said that benefit helped him to decide to stick with the Sheridan fire department rather than seeking higher paying work in the oil patch. His job with the city promises a reliable monthly benefit on which he and his family can plan for their retirement years. Wyoming Retirement System Director Thom Williams outlined the basic aspects of the system and pointed out the many “levers” system managers can use to ensure its long-term sustainability. Those levers include changes imposed by theLegislature that will reduce benefits to employees hired after Sept.1, 2012. He noted the system managers can call for increased contributions from employees, as well. You can listen to a Sheridan Media report on the meeting by reporter Ron Richter by clicking here. The Equality State Policy Center and the Coalition for a Healthy Retirement System believe there are many reasons for supporting the defined benefit system used in Wyoming: * It promises stability with a reliable monthly income that the teachers who educated our children and the police and fire fighters who protected us can use to plan their family budgets. * Professional managers oversee investments – and those investments have paid 72% of all the benefits paid out since 1991. * Good pensions help recruit and retain highly qualified employees. A stable workforce enables schools, law enforcement, and other state agencies to deliver good service to the public. * Pension payments are an economic asset that keeps income flowing into the local economies where pensioners live. In 2011, the system paid nearly $300 million to Wyoming residents, benefits that rippled through their local communities. The Coalition for a Healthy Retirement System includes the Wyoming Education Association, the Wyoming Retired Education Personnel Association, the Wyoming Public Employees Association, the Federated Fire Fighters of Wyoming, AARP Wyoming, the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, the Wyoming Highway Patrol Association, the Wyoming State AFL-CIO, and the Equality State Policy Center.

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