Dec 10, 2014 4:32 PM

Kevin Landrigan: NH Supreme Court deals big blow to public employees


CONCORD - The message from the New Hampshire Supreme Court to all public employees in the state retirement system is clear. Pay up.

The high court unanimously sided with the legislature and against firefighters and a host of unions fighting a 2011 law that raised what came out from every employee's paycheck to pay for their future pensions.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said the reform was a shared sacrifice with employers and workers donating to fix one of the worst financed systems in the country.

"And my point always was you can kick the can down the road but the longer you take the more medicine you will have to take the more bitter it is,'' Bradley said.

In a statement the retirement security coalition said it was "deeply concerned about the long term impact of the decision on the people of New Hampshire."

House democratic leader Steve Shurtleff said workers weren't to blame for the system's poor finances.

"The shortfall was caused by the fact for 15 years the employers, the local and state government weren't paying their fair share to fund the system,'' Shurtleff said.

Marty Karlon, a spokesman for the system, said the court's ruling prevented blowing a $50 million annual hole in its balance sheet.

To keep the system operating and funded soundly we rely on member contribution, employer contribution and investment income,'' Karlon said.

NH1 also looked at what this decision means in dollars and cents. For three specific workers, it means they will pay at least $1,000 dollars more a year.

For a state employee making $50,000, instead of $2,500 a year for their pension, they'll now pay $3,500.

For a firefighter making $60,000 annually, he or she used to pay $5,600 and now will have to fork over $7,100.

Finally - for a police officer who makes $70,000, the old pension pay rate worked out to $6,500; now that skyrockets to $8,100.

Later Wednesday, the union coalition added in its statement that it sees this decision written narrowly and noted the justices relied on a similar case in Florida.

Union leaders said they would closely be watching other pension-related cases before the High Court in the coming months.


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