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Editorial: Pensions move to equity

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Democratic Sen. George Muñoz and 37 other members of the New Mexico Senate deserve credit for putting party politics aside in favor of delivering on a promise to New Mexico’s government workers while respecting the situation the rest of New Mexico’s taxpayers are in. Last week Muñoz’s SB 27, which will finally put many of the state’s public pensions including police, fire, judicial and others on a track to solvency, made it through the Senate 38-4 and headed to the House.

Muñoz’s bill will shore up the Public Employees Retirement Association fund, which covers roughly 86,000 active workers and retirees and currently is funded at just 65 percent — meaning it owes about $6.2 billion more in future benefits than it has in assets on hand. And it does this in the most equitable and fair manner proposed to date, asking employees to pay 1.5 percent more into their own pensions and taxpayers to kick in .4 percent more. It was the result of hard bargaining with the dissenting Democrats trying to dig a lot deeper into the pockets of taxpayers, many of whom can only dream about a pension like this and who already contribute generously — more than 15 percent.

SB 27 brings other doses of reality via systemic changes to what Muñoz correctly points out will still be among the nation’s most generous state retirement benefits. It will require future public employees to work longer before being eligible for full retirement benefits and it will trim the annual cost-of-living adjustment from 3 percent to 2 percent for retirees who earn an annual pension of more than $20,000. And this has a real chance of being signed by the governor, who pushed hard and effectively to protect taxpayers.

Right now, for future New Mexico government retirees, being promised a pension and getting one are two very different things. SB 27 moves the state closer to ensuring they aren’t.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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