LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers have overridden Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto of a public-employee retirement bill, holding in place a deal that was struck to shore up the retirement plans of teachers, judges and state patrol troopers.
The 32-1 vote came one day after Heineman, a Republican, criticized the measure as an unfair increase for state taxpayers. Supporters of the bill argued that failing to pass it would only postpone tough decisions on the state’s unfunded, $2.2 billion pension liability.
The bill holds a nearly 10 percent contribution rate for teachers, reduces benefits for new hires, and increases the state’s contribution from 1 percent to 2 percent.
In his veto message, Heineman criticized the proposal to increase the state’s contribution. He said the increase would cost the state an estimated $20 million a year — an amount that would grow over time — in addition to the roughly $20 million that the state already pays.
Heineman also took issue with assumptions that the investments would see 8 percent annual returns, saying those estimates were unrealistic. He called for a study so lawmakers and the public can better understand the system’s liabilities, and make changes next year.
Heineman’s budget recommendations did not include a solution to the projected shortfalls in the school, judges’ and troopers’ retirement plans. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, said past governors have worked to address state-pension shortfalls.
Nordquist said the bill was an attempt to move forward with the state’s 30-year pension obligation. Nordquist said the state would end up paying more in future years if lawmakers failed to take action.
“It’s time for us to step up and address this in a comprehensive manner,” he said.