A bill to block private groups and associations from joining the taxpayer-backed state pension system cleared the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee Wednesday despite Democrats’ dissent.

The measure, formally House Bill 145, would block non-government entities from joining the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho. The measure now heads to the House floor.

Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, and temporary Rep. Amanda Reifers, also of Boise, voted against the measure. Reifers is filling in for Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise. 

Bill sponsor Steven Harris, a Republican representative from Meridian, told the panel it’s inappropriate for private groups to participate in a pension system backed by Idaho taxpayers.

Though the private groups and their employees pay into the system, Harris intimated that taxpayers could be forced to bolster private pensions in the case of significant market losses.

A number of private groups already participate in the system, including the Idaho Education Association, the Idaho Association of Counties, the Association of Idaho Cities and the Idaho Public Employees Association. Those employers would continue to take part, and their new hires would still be allowed to join the state program if Harris’ bill passes into law.  

Harris’ plan would also block quasi-governmental entities, like urban renewal districts, from joining the pension program.

Though new private groups don’t often join the pension system, PERSI fielded such a request in December. That month, the PERSI oversight board considered adding the Idaho Independent Intergovernmental Authority, described by the pension program as “essentially a group of cities that pool together to negotiate for health insurance.”

The PERSI board declined to take action on the request at the December meeting, citing the need for clarification from the Legislature.

Note: The original post said Chew voted for against the bill. That was not the case and this article reflects the change. IR regrets the error. 

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