Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wyoming State Employees could begin paying retirement contributions

State workers may be forced to pay 3 percent or more of their salaries into the state retirement system if some legislators have their way.

Members of the Joint Appropriations Committee on Wednesday agreed to ask the Management Council, the Legislature's administrative arm, for authorization to push legislation on the issue in the coming budget session.

Currently, government covers all retirement contributions for nearly all Wyoming public employees. Workers covered by the system include state employees, employees at the University of Wyoming and the state's community colleges and school districts. A handful of school districts require employees to pay a portion of the cost.

The total state payment into the public employees’ retirement system is 11.25 percent of worker salaries, or about $200 million a year. Although state law allows the state to force public employees to pay just under half that amount, the state established the tradition of paying the entire contribution in past years when it was struggling to compete with the private sector to attract and retain workers.

Thomas Mann, director of the Wyoming Retirement System, said the state retirement fund holds about $6.5 billion and pays out about $275 million a year in benefits to more than 18,000 retirees.

The State Retirement Board this summer called for the state to increase its contribution to the system by 2.65 percent of worker pay, or about $68 million, for the two-year budget cycle that starts next summer. The board stated the increase would allow a 2 percent cost of living increase for state retirees.

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