Friday, July 20, 2007

Governor Blanco vetoes HB 845

Governor Kathleen Blanco has vetoed House Bill 845, which would have granted millions of dollars worth of unearned, unpaid-for retirement benefits to 450 Adult Probation and Parole officers employed by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. The LASERS Board of Trustees formally requested a veto of HB 845 after it won approval in the 2007 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature. The trustees urged the governor to veto the measure due to the financial burden that it would have placed on the LASERS trust fund, and on the vast majority of LASERS members who would have been forced to subsidize the benefits that it provided.

What follows is the text of the governor's veto letter for HB 845:

July 19, 2007

The Honorable Alfred W. Speer
Clerk of the House of Representatives
State Capitol
Baton Rouge, LA 70804

Re: House Bill No. 845 by Representative Durand
RETIREMENT/STATE EMPS: Provides for a higher benefit accrual rate for certain adult probation and parole officers and for actuarial funding for such benefit

Dear Mr. Speer:

House Bill 845 is a well-intentioned attempt to upgrade and standardize the retirement benefits of adult probation and parole officers. It is my understanding that, in an effort to treat all adult probation and parole officers similarly, the legislation proposes to upgrade officers who remain in a plan with a different accrual rate.

While there may be a need to correct an existing disparity, there are serious and substantial financial concerns with this legislation. Indeed, both legislative and Louisiana State Employee Retirement System (LASERS) staff remain unsure whether fees generated are sufficient to cover future liabilities, including the cost of upgrading hundreds of officers to a different plan. Further, there are legitimate concerns about whether the fee imposed is sufficiently collectible from persons on supervised probation or parole especially considering the current 53 percent collection on existing fees.

It is my sincere hope that LASERS and other stakeholders will come forth with a plan to provide for a fair but actuarially sound benefit scheme for these hard-working officers. While these officers deserve a fair package, they also deserve a plan that adequately pays for it. For these reasons, I have vetoed House Bill No. 845 and am returning it to the House of Representatives.


Kathleen Babineaux Blanco
The editorial boards of several Louisiana newspapers, including the Baton Rouge Advocate and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, joined the LASERS Board of Trustees in urging the governor to veto HB 845.