JEFFERSON CITY — Future state employees have to pay into the retirement system under a Senate bill passed Tuesday.
Under the legislation, state employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011, would have to contribute four percent of their pay to the retirement system. State employees are not required to contribute any percentage of their salary to their retirement plans now.
New employees also would have to work longer before being eligible for retirement.
The measure would do not cover existing state government employees.
The bill passed by a vote of 27-5. Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he voted against the bill because he thought the discrepancy between state workers and legislators was unfair.
"It's not going to apply to anyone who's currently in the legislature; it only applies to new legislators," Schaefer said. "If that's the case, I think it should apply now and it should apply to everybody."
The bill would alter the age at which state employees could receive retirement benefits. To receive those benefits, most new government employees would have to wait an additional five years.
A state employee can retire at age 62 after working at least five years or when the employee's age and years service of service to the state equals 80 years. Thus, a person who began as state employee at age 20 can retire with full benefits at age 50.
The Senate-passed plan would raise the combined age and years of service requirement from 80 years to 90 years with an additional requirement of a minimum age of 55. For those with fewer combined years, the minimum retirement age would be raised to 67 with a requirement of at least 10 years service to the state.
An umbrella organization would also be created to organize the investments of the Missouri State Employees Retirement System and the Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees' Retirement System.
The measure would not cover a number of other separate government retirement systems such as that of the University of Missouri System.
Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, said he wanted to make further changes to the state's retirement program.
"We could continue on this system where we trap people in and ask them to become state employees. And if you just hang on for 30 years, you're gonna get a great benefit out of the deal," Shields said. "That's not what we want out of our state employees, and I don't think that's what the new workforce wants."
Sen. Joan Bray, D-University City, said although the stricter eligibility requirements do not affect current employees, she worries state jobs will become less attractive to those searching the job market.
"I have a lot of angst over what's happening over state employees in general," Bray said. "We are lopping off again this year in the budget process, and that means more pressure, more expectations for those who are remaining. I understand this doesn't affect them but only new hires. I do have a general concern about what we're doing to employees."
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said concerns such as Bray's would hold more weight if the state weren't trying to recover from a historic decline in revenue collection.
"It's a legitimate concern," Crowell said. "Make no mistake: I, in no way, shape or form, believe that this bill would be moving if we weren't in the economic recession."