Hello and Happy Wednesday.
During this week prior to the start of the 2012 session of the NM Legislature, some legislative committees are getting a jump-start on their work, taking the opportunity to brief members on the work conducted during the interim. This is especially important for committees like House Appropriations and Finance (HAFC) and House Education, which have major budget bills to pass before the 30-day
session reaches midpoint.
This morning, House Education heard testimony on the education retirement solvency proposal. As you know, the ERB recommends areduced cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all of its members,
including current retirees, as well as a minimum retirement age of 55 as steps toward shoring up a $5.7 billion unfunded liability. Nothing much new came out of today's briefing, though more opposition to it is being voiced.
ERB director Jan Goodwin repeated her mantra of "shared sacrifice, shared responsibility" as she called for modest change now to offset drastic change in the future. It was echoed by the NM Assn. of
Retired Educators in voicing support of the ERB proposal - understandable since their board drafted it. However, NEA-New Mexico now joins the American Federation of Teachers in opposing the
proposal. Both groups represent public school teachers and call the proposal "punitive" and in need of further work. Cindy Stuart of the UNM Retirees Assn. spoke of the reduced buying power experienced by retirees that would be depleted even more by COLA reductions.
For the most part, committee members in attendance listened but remained non-committal. save for Rep. Dennis Roch (R - Curry, Harding ,Quay et al), who happens to be an educator. Though saying he
understands the financial underpinnings of the proposal, Rep. Roch opposes it philosophically, because it removes an employee's choice about retirement and changes the rules for employees "already in the game." He did say he might consider a compromise that focuses change for individuals not yet vested.
ERB solvency legislation is expected, though it has not been pre-filed. Director Jan Goodwin has indicated a bill might be co-sponsored by Senate heavyweights John Arthur Smith and Stuart Ingle.
As of yesterday, more than one hundred bills, memorials and resolutions had been pre-filed. Your Office of Government and Community Relations is tracking 27 of them. Follow their progress on
the Bill Tracker on the govrel.unm.edu website.
HAFC had the Higher Ed funding formula on its agenda for review this Saturday, Jan. 14, but that review will be rescheduled, TBD. The HAFC will take up higher ed budgets for all institutions on Monday,
Jan. 23, with Senate Finance doing the same the following afternoon. The 2012 legislative session begins at noon next Tuesday.
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Have a grand rest of the day.