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State pension system must be brought under control before raises

To The Daily Sun,

This next week in Concord the Legislature will take up the contentious issue of approving the funding for possible wage increases for N.H. public employees. While we realize it has been tough sledding for these employees vs. increases in take home pay, they have been taking the taxpayers to the woodshed over he last three years with near 20 percent annual average increases by the employer to the State of N.H., to their previously grossly underfunded pension plan in exchange for the retirees giving up COLAs in their entirety. So with a compromise worked out by former N.H. House Speaker Bill O'Brien in a previous legislative session, N.H. state reps agreed to these funding INCREASES to try and get this pension fiasco out of the hole with these significant annual increases to the state employee's TOTAL BENEFIT PACKAGES. Unfortunately some of the new fundings that have contributed to that pension trust rising from less than a 56 percent funding, ending in 2012, to at least some progress toward the 60+ percent funding ratio most recently reported by NHRS, have come from the state growing active participants by near 10 percent over the last five years. So while against AARRs this is a small positive, it also significantly increases the out years liabilities.

I would urge our Belknap County legislators to take a very hard look at funding a settlement with the state employees on wages from a TOTAL BENEFIT PACKAGE increase perspective, and how much we are proposing increasing THAT, so that the constituency does not get the same old bamboozling about how woefully underpaid state employees are. I would also point out that while progress is being made on NHRS Trust funding, the fund still remains woefully under funded vs. the 80 percent funding most think tanks (i.e. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College) regard as the minimum funding ratio to give a pension trust a healthy rating. Beyond that the OPEBs medical benefits etc. for retirees are still not even 10 percent funded.

I would also appeal to Senator Hosmer to examine the inherent fairness and propriety of the top 20 percent pensioners by pension amounts taking more than 50 percent of the gross annual distributions from NHRS whilst those lesser paid with generally smaller pensions in the public education industry continue to be providing the lion's share of NHRS funding and that financially unhealthy underfunding continues on at NHRS. Given that situation, it is time For Senator Hosmer, his Democratic allies in the state Legislature, and State Employee's SEA/SIEU President Gulla to step up and propose and back legislation to cap NHRS future distributions to NEW pensioners at near $90K/Yr with a 2/3rds of the cost of living incremental increase to administering such a cap. That is, create a cap and then raise the cap by a COLA and not provide any restitution of general COLAs which are COLA CREEP raids on the NHRS trust by those in the top 20 percent by distribution amounts. The portions of pensions that are attributable to failed AARR's simply are not portions of pensions earned by defining them beyond what is earned over and above the contributions inside these retirement trust funds. Once we get this pension situation under control and financially healthy we can then consider "more fair "salary increases in the total benefits increases for state employees.

Tim Sullivan


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Lawmaker's actions aren't even 'penny wise', just 'pound foolish'

To The Daily Sun,

Much is said about the New Hampshire Advantage. We attribute many of our successes to our frugality and willingness to take care of our own communities while living within our means. But as much as we talk about it, sometimes we don't pay enough attention to what it really means, think about its components, and take proactive steps to preserve it.

Protecting our natural resources and cultural heritage lies at the heart of "Live Free or Die", and is an important component. Here in the Lakes Region we particularly value our mountains, lakes and rivers, the most visible components of our natural heritage. Our richly diverse communities and magnificent geography clearly identify us as the center of New Hampshire.

Hardest to see and measure, though, are the contributions of our people and the decisions we make. People here in the Lakes Region are strong and resilient and we embrace our neighbors and visitors alike. These define our character and enrich us as well as the entire Granite State, to say nothing about attracting abundant tourists to enjoy our hospitality.

When viewed through this prism, the choices some of our legislators are making are baffling. We know that investing in the New Hampshire Advantage pays dividends, yet we see aggressive, crippling cuts being made to programs — including some which return more than $8 for every dollar we spend.

For example, for every dollar we put into promoting our state's tourism industry, our state and local governments take in more than eight dollars in revenue. At the same time, spending by visiting tourists help fund more than 68,000 jobs in our state.

One of the smart decisions we made a few years ago to ensure this continues, was to dedicate a small portion of rooms and meals tax revenue specifically to tourism promotion. The House Republican passed budget is poised to suspend that action — a cut of nearly half of the budget for promoting our state's tourism industry. Again, for every dollar we spend on tourism promotion we get eight back. This cut of more than $3 million could result in real revenue losses of more than $20 million, and deliver a long term domino effect in job losses and business contraction.

Research in other states has shown that even temporary reductions in promotional marketing of tourism can have a lasting impact on the state's economy. Why would we want to risk that?

The Lakes Region that so many of us call home would suffer mightily if these illogical cuts aren't reversed. We aren't just talking about the loss of seasonal jobs, we are talking about small businesses we've known for years, even decades, disappearing. Hardworking Granite State families, people that have supported their communities and our state for generations, facing hardship over bad business decisions made by legislators more concerned about campaign slogans than the strength of the communities they represent.

When we look at the states that have come out of the recent economic downturn the strongest, the common element has been investing in themselves. If we don't do the same, the New Hampshire Advantage will be something we tell stories about, "remember when. . ."

The actions of the current legislature aren't even penny-wise, they are just pound-foolish. We should be investing in the preservation of the New Hampshire Advantage. These cuts aren't the right choice for our state, we owe Granite Staters better decision making than that.

David O. Huot

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