Thursday, January 17, 2013

House, Senate leaders name special joint committee to address pension shortfall

Sen.President Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, and House Speaker Mark Blasdel, R-Somers, named eight Republicans and four Democrats to a joint-select committee on pensions. Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, will chair the committee.

According to the leaders, the bi-partisan committee will be tasked with developing ideas and solutions to address Montana’s state pension shortfall.

“Our state pension shortfall is a real problem, that’s why it is critical for us to come together to find a solution,” Essmann said. “We need a solution that will allow us to keep the promises we have made to our public employees, provide fairness to future employees, and be responsible and fair to Montana taxpayers.

Blasdel said addressing the shortfall in Montana's state pension fund is one of the Legislature’s biggest jobs this session.

“Working on the problem through a joint bipartisan subcommittee is a good way of making sure we're focusing on work, not on politics,” Blasdel said.

Sen. Minority Leader Jon Sesso, D-Butte, called the committee “a good step forward,” but he lamented the fact that more Democrats weren’t on the committee.

“We would have preferred a couple more seats at the table, to reflect the true makeup of the 63rd Legislature,” Sesso said. “Regardless, the Democrats appointed to have a good working knowledge of the issue are prepared to make significant contributions to craft a fair, workable solution to the problem.”

The Joint-Select Committee will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays. According to lawmakers the committee will engage stakeholders and members of the public in an effort to thoroughly understand the challenges facing Montana’s public employees pension funds.

Members of the Joint-Select Committee on Pensions include:

Sen. Dave Lewis (R) - Chairman
Sen. Chas Vincent (R)
Sen. Ron Arthun (R)
Sen. Scott Sales (R)
Sen. Larry Jent (D)
Sen. Tom Facey (D)
Rep. Rob Cook (R)
Rep. Carl Glimm (R)
Rep. Bill McChesney (D)
Rep. Joanne Blyton (R)
Rep. Keith Regier (R)
Rep. Kathy Swanson (D)

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