The state’s five public pension systems did their part more than two years ago. They proposed plans to bolster their financial positions, each tailored differently, all with an eye on the requirement that they be able to pay off their obligations in no more than 30 years. Three of the five called for increased employee contributions. None proposed a taxpayer bailout.
Unfortunately, state lawmakers have ducked the job. That is, until now, the Republican majority in the Ohio Senate looking to act soon in a comprehensive way to address the weaknesses.
The most persuasive argument for moving ahead now involves the broad support for the package of changes. These pension systems have made tough choices, and they stress that the longer lawmakers delay, the more expensive the repair work becomes. If lawmakers do not act quickly, the legislative calendar easily could slip away, summer sliding into the fall campaign, the work postponed past Election Day and into the new year.
That would mean moving into a fourth year since the pensions systems took the responsible step of meeting their challenges.
On Tuesday, David Eggert of the Columbus Dispatch reported on the consensus forming around the State Teachers Retirement System. He noted the proposals for adjusting the years-of-service requirement, for increasing the teacher salary contribution from 10 percent to 14 percent over four years, for lowering the cost-of-living component.
What Tom Niehaus, the Senate president, rightly stresses is that teachers, highway patrol officers, school employees, police officers and firefighters and other state employees are responsible for maintaining the soundness of their pension systems. Sure, lawmakers must exercise oversight. They should resist making matters worse.
In November — two years after the systems submitted their repair plans — lawmakers tapped a consulting firm to examine yet again the financial position of the pensions. Its report is due sometime this summer. Why not wait for the consultants to report? Because this amounted to more of a delay game than anything else, the posture of the pension systems well known, the information already available to take the necessary action.
If the Senate gives its approval, will the House follow? House leaders already have expressed their wish to wait until after the November election. They might think harder about what Tom Niehaus understands. The pension systems want to manage better their financial positions. They have proposed as much. Now lawmakers must get out of the way by giving their approval, allowing the systems to get busy on the task.