Bill would scrap retirement benefit for Utah public employees

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A bill that will stop a public employees' ability to transfer sick time to a retirement benefit passed the Senate Thursday — setting Utah up to begin relieving itself of a $70 million unfunded liability.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, saw HB194 pass 22-1 and said the unfunded liabilities to the state couldn't be sustained under the old program which allowed public employees to transfer eight hours of sick time into one month of health insurance upon retirement.

"We can't afford it," Weiler said simply.

The bill would stop participation in that program beginning Jan. 4, 2014 and would instead allow employees to participate in a 401(k) program. Sick time unused at the time of retirement would be lost.

Public employees were able to convert each eight hour block of unused sick time into one month of health insurance coverage. In 2006 to the present, that changed to allow 75 percent of those hours to be converted to a health retirement account.

The bill would wean the state off of a $10.5 million a year commitment, according to the Utah Public Employees Association.

The UPEA also supported the proposal, which cleared the House Feb. 25 by a 71-1 margin.

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