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Another View -- John Reagan: Legislature is attacking towns, counties, and retirees

January 17. 2018 6:17PM

The current version of House Bill 561, coming before the Senate today, would reduce the allowable hours retirees in the New Hampshire Retirement System may work for any other NHRS member. This is nothing more than a misguided attempt to increase union membership, increase municipal and county budgets, and punish retirees for having worked for state or local government.

Reducing the hours a retiree may work for another state retirement system member would cause reduction in worker availability, forcing towns and counties to seek other, often unavailable, workers to perform necessary and sometimes legally-contracted obligations. Three of the counties I represent are on the hook for millions of dollars to replace prison transport details. The state Department of Corrections is strained by forced overtime, with the only relief provided by retired guards.

Many sheriffs’ departments contract with the federal government to transport federal prisoners. This work requires sworn officers. The work schedule is erratic, so it is particularly suited to employment of retired officers. Fire department retirees are similarly disadvantaged when work in their specialty areas is not in need of full-time employees.

Teachers and other workers are all treated as if they are robbing the retirement system by relieving local employers from hiring new employees. Who would want to cause the local and county governments to hire more expensive full-time employees when there are already trained people to do the work?

The unions are the driving force behind forcing the employers to be barred from saving the taxpayers money. While this practice saves the local employers payroll dollars by not having to support higher pay and benefits, it reduces the union’s membership. Membership equals dues paid into the union treasuries.

“Double-dippers” is the epithet used to refer to retired persons who wish to work in retirement. When hired, these retired employees were not told that a condition of employment would be a ban on future part-time hours after they retired.

Actuaries for the retirement system told the retirement commission that this bar to employment of retirees will make no improvement to the bankrupt condition of the current $5 billion shortfall. If anything, the system may improve by not adding new members.

The passage of HB 561 as written would force an increase in local spending or a decrease in local services. The imposition of these restrictions on management of local government would violate the state constitution prohibiting the state from imposing costs on local governments. The strangulation of local government managers would raise property taxes when less expensive workers are readily available in the retiree pool.

This bill is bad policy for retirees, the state, and local employers. It would increase property taxes or reduce services across the state. It violates the implied agreement made with employees at the time of hiring, and does nothing to improve the disastrous condition of the system. The public employee unions are the only beneficiaries. I will continue to oppose the unfunded mandate as my pledge to my constituents to fight taxes.

The Senate should oppose HB 561, and help control our property tax bills.

Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, represents District 17.

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