Last Modified: Friday, June 22, 2012 7:50 PM
Gov. Bobby Jindal deftly wielded his veto pen earlier this month for a pair of bills affecting retirement benefits that would have set a terrible precedent.
House Bill 38 by state Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, would have required state retirement systems to notify each other if a rehired retiree had a recipricol agreement to ensure benefits are discontinued. State law forbides members receiving benefits from any system while they are contributing to another system.
The troubling part, though, was a section in the legislation that would require forgiveness of a debt owed by certain retired members of the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System, who were also members of the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System.
‘‘That section sets a precedent, which could have a negative impact on all public retirement systems, and will encourage any member who has received an overpayment for any reason to seek legislation to forgive their debt,’’ said Connie Carlton, board chairman of LASERS.
Jones said the real reason the bill met opposition was because of its reporting requirements for all systems.
But LASERS Executive Director Cindy Rougeau said legislators would be lining up to get their constituents refunds if HB 38 became law.
‘‘It requires us to forgo money legitimately owed,’’ she said.
Jindal’s pen also scuttled HB 988 by Jones, which, in part, sought to increase retirement benefits for adult probation and parole officers.
In essence, it would have increased the percentage that part of the officers’ retirement benefits were calculated on from 2.5 percent to 3 percent.
In opposing the bill, Carlton pointed out that it would single out and unfairly benefit a small fraction of the 6,000 law enforcement members of LASERs. Carlton also noted the increase would amount to an unfunded liability for LASERS.
Louisiana’s state retirement system has an unfunded accrued liability of $28 billion.
While not the main cause for the huge hole, legislation like Jones’ bills that favored individuals or small groups, have contributed to the deficit.
Jindal’s vetoes help curb such abuse.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.