Wyoming Legislature Considering How to Address Firefighter Pension
At a recent Joint Appropriations Committee, Representatives and Senators got together to discuss what they plan on doing to address a lack of funding in the fire A pension plan.
This pension deals specifically with firefighters who were hired prior to 1981 and, unless changes are made, will run out of money by 2026.
There were a few proposals brought up at the meeting, from having the state and localities provide funds, cutting back on the amount of money given out, or a combination of the two.
Casper city manager Carter Napier spoke at the meeting to discuss how he believes Casper could provide around $300,000 every year for the next 10 years to help shore up the pension fund.
Back in 2014 there was an attempt to address this problem and provide enough funding to the pension, however the bill was unable to pass the Senate after it had passed the House.
Heidi Foy, whose father and grandfather both worked as firefighters, said the meeting was encouraging, but there is still progress to be made.
"My grandfather was a retired firefighter, who has passed away, my grandma is now receiving that pension, she's 85, she's not going to go back to work. Seeing a survivor benefit cut I think is one of my concerns, one of our concerns as a whole I believe, because that's an older demographic that's drawing from the pension that really has no other option."
Foy said it is important that the state is able to fund this pension, as otherwise people could lose faith in the state's ability to fund pensions in general.
"Part of my frustration, and even some of the city managers mentioned this, if we are not able to fund this, what's next. If we're not able to fund this, it's going to make it substantially more difficult for us to hire people, because if our state has not funded this pension, which pension is next."
Casper Fire-EMS currently has around 95 firefighters on this pension plan, the largest of any city in Wyoming, representing around 30% of the people on the pension A plan.
Tom Walters, a Wyoming state Representative on the Joint Appropriations Committee, said the bill they were considering used three different approaches to help pay for the pensions.
"That's what the bill today really revolved around, what I would call a three legged stool to address it. The first leg of the stool is the firefighters would be expected or asked to give up the cost of living adjustment that they have built into it...the second part of it is the state would infuse about $150 million in hard cold cash into a reserve account for that. The reason we would do it into a reserve account and not into the pension account directly is because constitutionally, when all the pensioners are gone, we would not be able to bring the money back out...then the third piece is the state would frontload the account then over a 20 year period municipalities, entities that have firefighters in the plan, would pay the state back for that as opposed to asking them to pay an upfront cost."
Walters said they plan on having a bill to present to the legislature when they reconvene in February of 2022.