Bill would put fire departments staffed by part-timers on hook for pension costs

It’s on to the state House for legislation that would require towns that hire part-time firefighters to pay part of their full-time pensions.

Should the bill become law, any town larger than 5,000 people that hires a part-time firefighter would be required to pay into the pension system of their full-time employer.

State Sen. Melinda Bush said larger departments are beginning to keep their full-time firefighters from taking extra work.

“This is really about sharing in the liability issues when you’re a firefighter,” she said. “If you are hurt, at this point the primary employer is taking all of the responsibility.”

The bill was opposed by dozens of fire departments and firefighters.

State Sen. Craig Willcox said the bill could result in no part-time work for firefighters across the state.

“There’s a fear that this is actually going to eliminate the ability for career firefighters to come back and support their home community,” he said.

The bill would also allow the state comptroller to withhold state distributed funds from towns until they’ve paid what they’re supposed to for pensions.

State Sen. Don DeWitte said the bill would force property tax increases or service cuts to pay for unexpected pension bills.

“This is an unfunded mandate that puts the burden on employers to cover pension costs for secondary employment and that is voluntary second employment,” he said.

Most firefighter pensions across the state are underfunded.

The bill now needs a House endorsement before it could go to the governor’s desk.

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Region: Statewide,Politics

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April 15, 2019 at 11:07AM

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