Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, said Sunday his bill to convert the Public Employees Retirement System into a hybrid system offering new hires a modified 401K is dead this legislative session.
He said the bill will instead be turned into a study designed to examine the sustainability of the existing retirement system and alternatives that might improve it.
“I acknowledge that I’m not going to be able to get the hybrid PERS plan I proposed through,” he said.
Instead, he said an interim study will examine “the long term sustainability of the system.” He said that will include not only the defined benefits plan currently in place but a defined contribution plan similar to Assembly Bill 190, cash balance plans and hybrid plans.
He said the interim study will be charged with developing a plan based on the results of the study to present to the 2017 Legislature.
Kirner said the goal is and always has been to ensure that the retirement system for public employees is sustainable.
“We want to make sure the program is going to be there to pay them their benefits,” he said.
AB190 continued the current defined benefits plan for existing employees but would have moved new hires to a hybrid plan consisting partly of defined benefits and partly defined contribution elements.
It ran into strong opposition not only from public employee groups but unions across the state who argued he was out to destroy a key recruiting and retention tool for public workers.
But an even stronger blockage was erected by PERS itself in the form of an $800 million fiscal note. That’s what PERS Director Tina Leiss said AB190 would cost the state to maintain the existing plan for current workers while implementing the hybrid plan for new hires.
Kirner disagreed with those estimates saying the cost would be minimal.
He said the study would resolve those issues including the costs of the various options available.
“It could in fact confirm that our plan is very sustainable,” he said of the current plan.
The plan represents not only state workers but local government and school district employees.
In order to turn the bill into his proposed study, Kirner must get it through the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and then through the Senate before adjournment Monday.