State Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh: We need to protect New Hampshire pensions

For the Monitor
Published: 6/7/2018 12:09:59 AM

Ever since I was a young man, I’ve understood the value of a secure retirement. My mother was a nurse and my father a telephone worker.

My father received a pension through his employer; my mother, after raising five kids, had to save enough money to get a chance to enjoy retirement. I have seen through my parents how different it is to either have a pension or not have one at all.

Here in New Hampshire, we need to make sure that our police officers, firefighters, teachers and all other public employees’ retirements are respected and honored. Our state and economy rely on it.

I’ve been in the telephone industry for 32 years, starting as a residential installer and eventually working with high-speed fiber optic installations. With my job came union membership with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. As a union member, I’ve had the ability to participate in a pension system. Every paycheck I receive helps to support my pension. Although it’s not a lot of money, I know that my family and I will be taken care of when it’s time for me to retire after a long career.

Our public employees here in New Hampshire are much the same. They pay into their pensions with the New Hampshire Retirement System each and every paycheck.

According to a study done by AARP and the National Institute on Retirement Security, New Hampshire taxpayers pay only a small part of pension costs. That same study also focused on the immense economic impact pensions have on our state as well.

NHRS serves 48,069 active employees and 32,776 retired members and survivor beneficiaries. Those retired members are the backbone of our local economies, producing $863.9 million in economic output from spending, supporting 6,026 jobs, and helping produce an additional $142.3 million in federal, state and local tax revenue.

That’s real money being spent and real jobs in our local economies. Although the average monthly benefit is a modest $1,704, it can go a long way with helping retirees support their families and local communities. With that being said, it’s been years since public employee retirees have received an increase in benefits.

This year, some public employee retirees were finally able to receive some relief. Public employees who receive less than $30,000 a year in a pension, served at least 20 years in public service, and have been retired for 5 years will receive a one-time $500 stipend. This stipend will support retirees, their families and communities.

This is just the start, though.

New Hampshire needs to give cost-of-living increases to all of our retired public employees. As inflation, the cost of groceries and gas prices increase, we need to make sure that those who served the public good their entire careers are taken care of. Next legislative session, let’s take care of all of our retired public servants.

(Kevin Cavanaugh, a Manchester Democrat, represents District 16 in the New Hampshire Senate.)

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