Every day during the legislative session, Gov. Mark Gordon has held a conference call with each member of his cabinet to monitor new developments in the House and Senate that could have a positive or negative impact on their respective agencies.

One bill being discussed this session, Gordon’s Chief of Staff Buck McVeigh told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, has alarmed them more than any of the others in either chamber: Senate File 108, a piece of legislation that would raise all current state employees’ mandatory retirement contributions — a quick solution to help gradually address a massive $1.5 billion funding shortfall in the state’s pension accounts that has festered over the last several administrations.

While seen by Joint Appropriations Committee members like Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, as a means of stemming the problem before it gets any worse, Gordon — now dealing with an inherited crisis — appears reluctant to endorse as extreme a solution.

“Needless to say, he was disappointed with the news of the potential this bill might have,” McVeigh told committee members of the governor’s reaction.

It was — as members of the Senate Appropriations Committee acknowledged Thursday — an unpopular bill to begin with. With state employees’ pay rates relatively stagnant over the past several years and with anticipated increases to health insurance premiums coming this summer, McVeigh noted that the increases would actually signify a net decrease to state employees’ benefits.

At a time where the state counts roughly 1,400 unfilled positions and — as the governor has recently stressed in his State of the State — key government jobs remain uncompetitive against the private sector, SF-108 presented a half-finished solution that Gordon’s office believes could exacerbate the government’s troubles in hiring and retention and significantly affect employees’ retirement plans.

Read the whole article in the Casper Star Tribune.

This article quotes selections from “Governor’s office concerned about proposed solutions to state pension crisis” by Nick Reynolds in the Casper Star Tribune.