Boothe reflects on session

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, June 16, 2011

The latest legislative session was seen as the most productive session in recent years, according to lawmakers, and Rep. Alan Boothe (R-Troy) said he and his colleagues had to make tough decisions.

“I think we had a very productive session,” Boothe said. “We dealt with several issues that needed to be dealt with.”

Of those “several issues” which needed to be dealt with, Boothe said the defined retirement plan was among the most important.

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“We had to go up on the amount of money employees put into their retirement accounts,” Boothe said. “The percentage had to be increased, because it’s very important that we maintain that retirement system.”

Boothe said there was opposition to the amended percentage increase employees had to contribute to the retirement system.

“Some people are opposed and think the state should step in and pay the extra amount, as opposed to the individual employee having to pay it,” Boothe said. “The state is strapped for money and we’re not in a position to go up on the amount that needed to be contributed to the retirement system.”

The amendment to the defined retirement plan requires state employees to increase their individual contribution to the retirement system from 5 percent to 7.5 percent.

“Because employees will be contributing more money, obviously their paycheck is going to go down some,” Boothe said. “But, it’s going into their retirement account, which they will eventually draw back.”

Boothe said the decision was based on clear indicators, which meant that he and other legislators had a “tough” decision to make.

“The actuary of the retirement system said the retirement system will require more money,” Boothe said. “It’s up to the state to fund that. The state has been funding that ‘x’ amount of dollars every year upwards of close to $1 billion. This year, because of the down economy, the Legislature felt like, and the governor agreed, the employee is going to have to bear a little more of the burden on putting money into their own retirement system.”

Boothe said the state will continue to contribute its share, but the cost of maintaining the retirement system has gone up “millions of dollars” per year and that, by law, the state has to maintain the system.

“A few years ago it was close to 100 percent funded, but now the funding is in the low 70s,” Boothe said. “The retirement system is important, it’s important to the people that work and we have to do what we can to ensure that the retirement system stays sound.”

Boothe said his goal is to be sure that the working people of today will have a better tomorrow, knowing lawmakers are doing what they can to maintain the system from which state employees will be drawing their retirement.

“We had to be sure the retirement system is sound and solid,” Boothe said. “In order to do that we have to maintain the proper funding for that organization.”