SB 141 needs changes

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2005

Public Employee Retirement in Alaska is being systematically dismantled by the Legislature. The state Senate, against the advice of their retirement boards and the consultants they hired, ran Senate Bill 141 through the Senate in record time.

Introduced March 14, the bill zoomed out by early April with a vote along party lines. The Murkowski administration has added a heavy push to the legislation, along with more misinformation than facts.

A recent article by the commissioner of administration is an inaccurate piece of propaganda. This gubernatorial bullying along with the Senate "holding its breath until it gets its way" should be highly suspect in regards to SB 141. Good legislation doesn't need these tactics and can stand up to the scrutiny that the bill should receive.

The retirement systems for both teachers and other public employees in Alaska are not in financial crisis. The downturn of the stock market caused temporary underfunding that is swinging back along with the market, as happened with the permanent fund.

This bill does nothing to address the actual issues that challenge all retirement systems in this day and age, such as skyrocketing medical costs. Rather it uses current circumstances as an excuse to eliminate a decent retirement for Alaska's public employees to shift all financial risk to the individual retiree and to trample on the benefits of future employees.

Alaska's retirement systems were designed to attract and keep good employees in Alaska. Perhaps adjustments need to be made, but not in the manner of SB 141.

I think that the House might have the courage to stand up to the Senate on this one, to at least hold this bill for study over the summer

I hope that the huge $600 million capital projects budget doesn't mean that votes on this bill are being leveraged by the governor's office. But if I'm wrong, we need to remember who brought us to this juncture: a Republican Legislature and governor run amok with their power. These are the same folks who eliminated the Longevity Bonus and tried to use the Homeland Security money to buy the governor a jet.

Maybe it's time to vote Democratic, Libertarian, Green or Alaska Independence — anything but Republican!

Judy Salo, Former teacher and state senator, Kenai

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