AFT-NH Testimony on HB 1279
From Debrah Howes, President AFT-NH
Thank you, Chair Weyler and Members of the House Finance Committee for reading my testimony.
My name is Debrah Howes. I am the president of the American Federation of Teachers-NH.
AFT-NH represents 3,700 teachers, paraeducators and school support staff, public service employees and higher education faculty across New Hampshire. We are residents and taxpayers in the Granite State. I am writing today in support of HB 1279, relative to payment by the state of a portion of retirement system contributions of political subdivision employers.
When RSA 100-A:16 was first enacted in 1967 the State of New Hampshire was responsible for 40% of the employer contributions for Teachers employed by political subdivisions. This wasn’t mere benevolence on the part of the NH Legislature. It did this because it wanted to encourage municipalities to sign on, adding many new members to the retirement system, and create a large, stable pool of those paying in to offset the retirees drawing pensions out. Unfortunately, over time the State has increasingly shifted the funding burden onto the local municipalities it courted to join the NH Retirement System in the first place.
In 1977 the portion the State paid was dropped to 35% but the system also expanded to include Police and Fire members employed by political subdivisions. In 2011, the state moved to eliminate the State’s share of employer contributions altogether. This does not stop pensions from being collected, it just passes the buck from the state directly to the municipalities, continually raising local property tax rates for Granite Staters and making it harder for communities to manage their budgets and provide the local police, fire, schools and road maintenance that their residents deserve. It has reached the point where the costs of the downshifted pension share is making it difficult to recruit and retain employees to staff those very public services municipalities need because it places such a limit on the salaries they are able to offer.
While the courts have ruled that it is legal for the State to not contribute, that does not mean it is right. The State should lower local property tax burdens and support HB 1279. This bill does not bring us back to the 40% the State originally contributed, but just to 7.5% to help ease municipal budgets and to give Granite Staters a break on their property tax bills.
We urge the committee to vote Ought to Pass on HB 1279.
President, AFT-New Hampshire