CARSON CITY — A bill seeking to change the public employees retirement system for future hires by switching to a mostly defined-contribution plan was passed out of an Assembly committee on Wednesday on a split vote with no recommendation.
Assembly Bill 190 now moves from Government Affairs to Ways and Means, where the potential costs of the proposal from Randy Kirner, R-Reno, can be reviewed.
Several members of the committee supported the motion to allow their many questions to be answered, but said they oppose the measure as it is now written. There were five voting in opposition to keeping the bill alive.
Assemblyman Edgar Flores, D-Las Vegas, objected to the motion, arguing that the many policy questions should be addressed by the Government Affairs Committee first.
Punting on the policy questions to the money committee is setting a precedent, he said.
But committee Chairman John Ellison, R-Elko, said all of Flores’ questions will be answered.
If the many policy questions are not answered satisfactorily, Ellison said he won’t support the bill.
“I will be involved in that process,” he said. “I will not give up our rights.”
Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, D-Henderson, said there were enough concerns with the bill on policy grounds to vote against the referral and instead kill the bill in committee.
Before the vote, PERS Executive Officer Tina Leiss was given an opportunity to identify numerous questions and concerns about the measure and whether as written, it would keep Nevada public employees from being required to participate in Social Security.
Many of the details would be left to the Public Employee Retirement System Board, but Leiss said they are policy questions that probably should be answered by lawmakers.
It is not clear, for example, if the new hybrid plan would provide for survivor benefits and disability benefits, she said.
There are provisions of the bill that also appear to impact the state constitution, Leiss said.
Kirner has said his hybrid plan, which would maintain a smaller defined benefit element along with a defined contribution plan that would be similar to a 401(k) type plan used in the private sector, would help move the state away from the long-term liability implications of defined benefit plans.
PERS has a long-term unfunded liability in the existing plan of more than $12.5 billion. Nevada’s plan is 71 percent fully funded.
The bill, if approved, would cover new public sector employees hired after July 1, 2016.
PERS has a fiscal note on the bill in the neighborhood of $800 million a year.
Contact Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.