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Pension plan conversion a hot topic at the end of the ND Legislative session

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A bill to change the pension plan for public employees will be one of the last measures the Legislature will consider.

It would affect people hired after January first, 2023.

Right now it’s a “defined benefit” plan. The bill would make it a “defined contribution” plan.

The current system has an unfunded liability of $1.4 billion. And the proposal would put money toward the current plan over several years to pay that down. Supporters say people who are on the defined benefit plan would have an option to convert to a defined contribution plan, but that would not be mandated.

The House passed it 76-16. The Senate would not concur, and it will be worked out in conference committee.

Rep. Pamela Anderson (D-Fargo) said having a defined benefit plan is one of the things that attracts people to government jobs.

"So now we're going to tell new employees, don't expect much in raises -- zero to 2 percent per year," Anderson told the House. "We do pay your health insurance. But we really have a so-so retirement plan."

But supporters of the change say very few employers have a defined benefit plan.

"I have yet to find a business -- other than in health care facilities for physicians -- that have a defined benefit program left," said Rep. George Keiser (R-Bismarck). "They simply can't afford it."

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