At NPPC, we believe every American deserves to retire with dignity. Our priority is protecting pensions for public workers in states across the country. Here is a look ahead at some of the state legislative sessions we are monitoring this year:
North Dakota: State Legislature convenes on January 3, 2023.
In North Dakota, the fight to preserve the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System (NDPERS) defined-benefit pension plan is already underway. In 2021, the state Legislature ordered an actuarial analysis to explore closing the pension system to new hires. Though the analysis concluded that closing the system will cost taxpayers more money, and destabilize the system’s funding, anti-pension lawmakers still pose a major threat.
Kentucky: State Legislature convenes on January 3, 2023.
Kentucky’s public pensions have been in jeopardy since 2013, when lawmakers moved all newly hired public employees, with the exception of public school teachers, to a cash balance hybrid-style retirement system. In 2018, teachers faced the same threat. The 2022 session approved a 2-year budget that promised to pay more than the actuarially recommended amount into Kentucky’s public retirement systems, but it failed to pass HB 135, a bill that would have offered first responders a defined-benefit pension. The 2023 State Legislative Agenda includes language on pension reform as the state continues to address funding gaps in its three pension systems.
Connecticut: State Legislature convenes on January 4, 2023.
In 2022, Connecticut made unprecedented moves toward paying down its unfunded liabilities with a $5.8 billion cash injection, largely due to trigger laws that go into effect when the state’s budget reaches a surplus. But between the pressure to lower taxes, the looming pension debt that remains, and the presence of powerful pension opponents like The Yankee Institute, public employees still face the threat of unfair pension reforms in the future.
Kansas: State Legislature convenes on January 9, 2023.
During the 2022 legislative session, Kansas lawmakers introduced a bill that attempted to move all public employees hired after July 1, 2023, to a thrift savings plan. The attempted closure of the defined-benefit system poses a significant threat to the state’s recruitment and retention of public employees. While this bill did not advance, it will take diligent action again this session to protect and preserve access to pensions through the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System.
Colorado: State Legislature convenes on January 9, 2023.
In 2020, under duress due to the Covid-19 pandemic, state lawmakers in Colorado skipped their required $225 million payment to the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA). Last year, HB22-1029 passed and dedicated $380 million to PERA. The funds paid back the missed $225 million payment, but not the additional revenue from lost investment earnings. $155 million went to pre-pay 2023’s required payment, leaving a remaining balance of $70 million for this year. Funding discipline continues to threaten PERA’s health, as the state struggles to reach its actuarially determined contribution. Several lawmakers remain skeptical that the legislature is responsible for missed investment gains.
Arizona: State Legislature convenes on January 9, 2023.
The 2022 legislative session in Arizona was one of the most robust in its history, with the introduction of over 2,000 bills. Two pension-related bills that were defeated included an attempt to move state university employees to a defined-contribution retirement plan, and an attempt to divest Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) and Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) funds based on ideological statutes. Both bills posed significant threats to the funding of the systems and set a dangerous precedent for future investment income. Tense partisan relations in the state legislature mean there could be more space for personal doctrines to threaten the state’s fiduciary discipline.
Wyoming: State Legislature convenes on January 10, 2023.
In 2022, the Wyoming House of Representatives passed SF 39, a bill intended to shore up the now-closed Fire A plan with a $75 million payment, and the elimination of the 3% annual compound cost of living adjustment (COLA) that has been in effect for the 266 retired firefighters still in the plan. State lawmakers also rejected a 13th check for retired public employees in their budget bill, which would have given retirees their first inflation adjustment in 14 years. The Wyoming state legislature has an influx of new lawmakers this year, so pension education is paramount.
Alaska: State Legislature convenes on January 17, 2023.
Since lawmakers closed the defined-benefit pension plan to new hires in 2005, Alaska has struggled severely with the recruitment and retention of its public employees. In 2022, lawmakers introduced HB 220, a bill that would return defined-benefit pensions to participants in the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Alaska (PERS) and the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). The bill passed out of the House Labor and Commerce and Finance Committees, but failed to make it to the floor. In 2023, we expect lawmakers to make a similar push to restore both defined-benefit pension plans.
Oklahoma: State Legislature convenes on February 6, 2023.
Oklahoma had a flurry of pension activity in 2022, including the introduction of HB 2486, a bill seeking to return all current and new Oklahoma state employees to a defined-benefit pension system. The bill was supported by several key lawmakers, however, it died due to strong influence from national anti-pension groups. In a major win for retirement security, SB 891, a bill that would have converted the Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System (OTRS) to a defined-contribution plan, failed to make it to the Senate floor. In 2023, the coalition is focused on connecting with pension champions in the legislature to preserve and expand defined-benefit access for all state employees.