COLUMBUS: Gov. John Kasich signed a package of bills Wednesday aimed at shoring up Ohio’s five public pension funds and praised the rare bipartisanship that secured their passage.
“We’ve got plenty of time to fight on lots of stuff,” said Kasich, a Republican. “But there are some absolutely critical things that have to be done to make sure that people are going to be in good shape.”
The legislation makes changes to funds covering some 1.8 million retirees, future retirees and their families. They include increases to some premiums, reduced payouts and tighter retirement eligibility requirements for funds covering teachers, police, troopers and other public workers.
The bills cleared the GOP-controlled Legislature two weeks ago with unanimous votes on all but one measure.
The package of bills is aimed at keeping the funds solvent. The affected funds are: Ohio Public Employee Retirement System, State Teachers Retirement System, School Employees Retirement System, Ohio Highway Patrol Retirement System and the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund.
Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus and Senate Democratic Leader Eric Kearney co-sponsored the bills.
The measures will take effect Jan. 7. Employee contribution rates would be gradually increased by increments from 10 percent of salary to 12.25 percent for those belonging to the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund, and from 10 percent to 14 percent for members of the State Teachers Retirement System.
Members of OPERS and the School Employees Retirement System would not see an increase in contributions. The Ohio Highway Patrol Retirement System board could adjust member contributions from 10 percent to up to 14 percent of salary.
At Wednesday’s bill signing, Kasich congratulated the funds’ leaders for coming forward with what he said were “very tough recommendations that will get their fund settled down” for significant period of time.
Kasich downplayed any notion that more legislative changes to the funds were in the near future.
“In terms of more things we need to do right now, we need to take a deep breath, and, frankly, we got to congratulate the systems and the Legislature,” he said.