Parnell Reintroduces Retirement Plan

The Legislature has made little progress on Gov. Sean Parnell’s goal of addressing the state’s looming retirement problem. Parnell hopes to change that by filing a bill that reintroduces his plan to deal with Alaska’s $12 billion unfunded liability.

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Gov. Sean Parnell’s retirement bill dropped on Thursday night, with little more than a week before lawmakers gavel out.

The idea is identical to the proposal he introduced going into session. It transfers $3 billion from the state’s savings reserves into the retirement trust fund. It also commits the state to making a half-billion dollar payment into the system every year. It’s been likened to taking on a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year one. Except instead of paying off a house, the goal is put less pressure on future state budgets and guard Alaska’s credit rating.

But the plan didn’t go anywhere. Lawmakers were reluctant to deal with the pension issue without a separate bill in front of them.

Parnell does not agree with that line of thinking.

“Actually, they did see a bill from me,” says Parnell. “I submitted my proposal in our budget proposal. So, to act concerned about not having a bill from the governor when we submitted one by December 15 as required by the Constitution is a little disingenuous.”

As Parnell’s plan languished, members of the House Finance committee tried to push forward their own way of dealing the pensions of public employees. Their proposal would have stretched out teacher retirement payments over a longer span of time, and they unsuccessfully tried attaching it to the education bill. Parnell described the outcome of the plan as “immoral” when it was initially introduced.

“I strongly oppose that particular plan, because I thought it was unjust that future generations have to pay for our debt and the debt of those before,” says Parnell. “I apologized to members who I offended in that, because my comment was not directed at them. It was directed at the result of that proposal.”

But Parnell says even if he doesn’t like that specific idea, he’s willing to hear other proposals in an effort to come up with an agreement that works for both the executive and legislative branches.

“I am open to a bill and working with legislators on that whether it’s something that I file or whether something they file,” says Parnell. “I just want the problem fixed for Alaskans.”

The governor’s retirement bill will get its first hearing on Saturday.