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Bill offers UA employees retirement benefits

By Brett Erickson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 10, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Rep. Debra Brimhall, R-Snowflake, sponsored a bill lessening the state's retirement requirements and increases benefits from 2 percent to 2.5 percent.

Phoenix - A state legislature panel yesterday approved a bill that would offer most UA faculty and staff a window to retire younger and with higher pensions.

The bill, passed by the House Banking and Insurance Committee with a 5-0-1 vote, lessens the state's retirement requirements and increases benefits from 2 percent to 2.5 percent.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Debra Brimhall, R-Snowflake, said the bill's passage by the full House would allow schools to replace older teachers with younger, cheaper, ones.

"If (universities and school districts) can retire some of the higher paid personnel, then they could bring in more numbers," Brimhall said.

The bill, which applies to all state workers, combines employees' ages with the number of years they have worked for the state to calculate retirement benefits.

For example, a 50-year-old retiring professor with 30 years of service who earned an average monthly salary of $5,740 would receive a monthly check for $4,300. Under current law, the same professor would receive $3,445.

University of Arizona state lobbyist Greg Fahey said the university has yet to take a stance on the bill, but called it a "very generous" retirement window.

"Obviously this is a major issue for our university," Fahey said. "We wouldn't want to stand in the way of something that offers a benefit for employees."

Fahey added that some faculty, paid by national organizations, would not qualify for the state retirement benefits.

Slated to come before the House within the next two months, HB 2014 would affect employees who retire between the time Gov. Jane Dee Hull signs it and Sept. 30.

The bill was approved along with two critical amendments that widened the window of opportunity for potential retirees.

Initially, the bill would have affected only state employees that retired from mid-August through Sept. 30, 1999. But committee members said the time constraint would leave universities and school districts scrambling to hire replacements during the first month of school.

The amended version of the bill contains an emergency clause, which means increased benefits could begin the day Gov. Jane Hull signs the bill.

A second amendment by committee member Marion Pickens, D-Tucson, broadens the range of eligible recipients for the increased benefits. The revision includes people who have already retired and are collecting state benefits, and those who retire before Hull signs the bill.

Pickens said her provision would grant thousands of current retirees higher pensions. But she added the bill may be met with criticism when voted on by the full house because it would cost the state significantly more money.