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Pension Reform Plan Passes Senate, Moves to House

A new bill that will reform Arizona’s public safety retirement system passed out of the Senate March 3 with 21 votes. Sen. Yarbrough’s pension plan, outlined in SB1609, provides extensive results-based reforms which will provide and preserve excellent benefits for its employees.

SB1609 makes common-sense reforms to the ailing public safety pension system by restricting benefit increases to times when the fund experiences stable rates of return. It also asks employees to contribute a reasonable amount toward protecting their future benefits. To promote long term sustainability, new hires will be required to work 25 years to achieve “normal” retirement and a minimum age is established for retirement.

SB 1609 addresses the issue of double-dipping by reforming current return-to-work policies so that the system would be prevented from taking a loss when a retiree returns to work and prohibits a person convicted of a felony involving official duties from collecting a pension. SB 1609 also reforms the Elected Officials Retirement Plan by scaling back the rate at which benefits accrue and capping the pension at 75%. To make this plan more sustainable in the immediate future, all elected officials will be required to accept these changes and become “new hires” by virtue of being re-elected, or in the case of judges, retained. Elected officials will also pay more toward their benefits.

Sen. Yarbrough believes the pension plans are currently underfunded, and that SB1609 will play a key role in preserving the pension systems for public safety employees. “I want police officers and firefighters to have the maximum assurance that their pensions will be secure when they retire. The reforms I have proposed with this new legislation will help this goal be realized timely and effectively,” says Sen. Yarbrough, a Chandler Republican.

SB1609 received overwhelming support from Senate members this past week and is expected to do so again when it is heard in the House.

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