Pension issues do not often make the front page of our newspapers or the top of the nightly television news. Nevertheless, one of the most important successes of this year’s legislative session was the passage of the Pension Reform bill.
Last Sunday night, only minutes before it turned into Monday morning, one of the final acts of the 2017 -2018 Legislative Session was the passage of the Public Employees Pension Reform Bill, SF 2620. The House of Representatives approved the bill at about 11:30 pm by a vote of 131 to 0; only minutes later, just prior to the midnight deadline, the Senate then approved it by a vote of 67-0.
This overwhelmingly positive vote was particularly gratifying given that for months those working for its passage have had good reason to worry that it could easily fall prey to any number of things including not being voted on at all. The very fact that it was among the final acts of this session is evidence of the extraordinary challenges that this bill has overcome. Upon Sunday evening’s votes by the House and Senate loud cheers could be heard throughout the hallways and corridors of the State Capitol from the many state employees and retirees who had come to urge the pension bill’s passage.
Do not let the overwhelming votes mislead you into any impression that this was an easy deliberation or victory. This vote followed years of difficult work by many people who cannot be thanked enough. That work included a very thoughtful study and recommendations by a Special Blue Ribbons Commission on Pension Reform. The Commission consisted of notable Minnesotans, enormous amount of input from public employee unions and retiree groups, the unfailing leadership of the Dayton Administration, particularly the Department of Management and Budget’s Commissioner Myron Frans, and finally the countless hours of House and Senate Committee deliberations involving many, many legislators.
The passage of this bill is a landmark moment in helping to secure the pensions of thousands of state public employees, both working and retired. This bill is an action on the part of the State of Minnesota as an employer to fulfill its promise of retirement benefits to it employees. It equally provides significant comfort to Minnesota’s taxpayer that their state’s pension system is sound and reliable in meeting its obligations; frankly, it makes it among the most secure in the nation. All sides of this matter - employer, employee and retiree - have made major contributions in making this possible. All will be better off for having achieved it.
Many legislators of both parties deserve enormous praise and thanks for making this all happen. Foremost among them are the bills two chief authors, Senator Julie Rosen and Representative Tim O’Driscoll, who provided tremendous leadership, vision, policy expertise, political savvy and dedication to taxpayers, state employees and retirees in this effort.
The approved bill now awaits its final step for enactment into law - the signature of Governor Mark Dayton. Governor Dayton has always been an outspoken advocate for this bill so there in no need to worry about his veto on this landmark achievement.
The passage of this bill has been years in the making. Over those years there have been many up-and-downs in reaching a proposal that all affected parties believed to be fair and financially reliable. Key to that effort has been the coming together of the leadership of all four pension funds, school associations, cities and counties, labor unions and retiree groups, the Administration and, of course, the legislature. This year marks a great coming together of diverse parities to do the right thing for the integrity of our pension system, the security of current and future retirees’ pensions and the interest of the taxpayers of Minnesota.
The Middle Management Association contributed considerably via the efforts of our members and our staff. We are deeply honored to have been a part of this great effort and magnificent success. Please thank your legislators and the Governor.