NM House OKs pension overhaul for public employees

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The House approved a proposal Tuesday to improve the solvency of New Mexico's public employee pension programs by establishing a minimum retirement age of 55 and limiting cost-of-living increases in some government workers' and educators' retirement benefits.

The changes would apply to employees who have worked for state or local governments, school districts or colleges for less than five years as of July.

The House approved the pension bill on a 37-32 vote Tuesday after finding enough votes to revive the measure, which had failed Sunday. The bill goes to the Senate, but there's little time left before the Legislature adjourns Saturday.

About 35,000 employees would be affected in the pensions administered by the Public Employees Retirement Association and the Educational Retirement Board, according to an analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee. However, the changes would not apply to police, firefighters, judges and legislators.

Opponents said changing pension eligibility for current public employees could trigger lawsuits. Any revisions, they said, should apply only to newly hired workers after legislation takes effect.

"I don't think it's fair that we change the rules in the middle of the game," said Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Espanola.

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