Vt. lawmakers face backlash over pension reform plans

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 5:48 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Faced with mounting opposition, some lawmakers are backing away from a controversial pension reform plan that would cut retirement benefits to teachers and state employees. It comes as union leaders and lawmakers are pitching their own solutions to the growing crisis.

The plan backed by House leaders would require teachers and other public sector employees to pay more money into the system, stay in the workforce longer, and receive fewer benefits. The plan would also inject an immediate $150 million in federal funds to help close the pension gap.

State employees want to start off with a $225-million infusion of federal cash and increase employee contribution by .35% across all groups. They also want to find $50 million of a new revenue source, whether it’s a tax on top earners or elsewhere. The union also wants to pump the brakes on the issue this session and evaluate how to make it sustainable.

“Our members are panicking, they are making life decisions based on a framework. This isn’t even a bill yet. I cannot bold, highlight, underline this fact to you enough,” said Aimee Towne, president of the Vermont State Employees Association.

Republican lawmakers are proposing to create a new pension fund for those not vested after 2023. And Progressives want to take more testimony over the summer and come up with a new plan in the fall, but they say it should include a tax on top earners.

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