Omaha fire and police union against pension bill

Posted at 6:35 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 19:36:24-05

A change to the retirement plans of Omaha fire and police could be underway.

Senator Mark Kolterman is proposing an overhaul, LB 30, to the retirement plans of police officers and firefighters in Omaha and Lincoln.

The Omaha fire and police unions spoke out against this measure at the Capitol on Tuesday.

“It creates many more problems than it solves,” said OPOA President Sgt. John Wells.

Wells said LB 30, to get rid of the forces’ traditional defined benefit pension system to a cash-balance system would hit the department hard affecting recruiting and essentially your public safety.

“You have to have manpower to respond in order to effectively combat crime, especially violent crime and our crime rate will go through the roof,” said Wells.

Wells says other cities like San Jose, California have adopted this proposal and its department saw over 650 police officers leave the department within 6 years, because the cash-balance plan works like a 401-K and you can leave and keep your pension

“Anybody who can leave Omaha will, as far as a police officer because you are going to go somewhere where the benefits are competitive,” said Wells.

The fire union worries about the cost this could have on their department.

“It’s expensive to run folks through these training academies and to get them trained up, to have them leave and take that training to another city,” said fire union president Steve LeClair.

However the Platte Institute says Omaha has seen its funding levels fall from almost 100-percent funded to less than half funded and the city’s pension debt stands at almost 2-billion dollars. Sen. Kolterman during the hearing stated this plan protects the taxpayers from a volatile market.

But the fire and police unions said their pensions are so important for retirement because they do not receive social security benefits.

 “That pension benefit is all they have,” said LeClair.

This bill would only affect new hires, all current employees would stay with their current pension plan.