Sen. Mike Hewitt supported the state's "retire rehire" policy when it first was introduced years ago. It was intended to address a shortage of teachers by allowing retired educators to return to work.
But somewhere along the way, the policy was expanded so much that the Walla Walla Republican found it unacceptable.
"It's one of those votes -- I wish I'd had it back," Hewitt, the Senate minority leader, told the Herald. "I was glad to get a second crack."
That second crack involved introducing a bill that would reduce the number of hours a rehired state employee could work before seeing pension payments reduced.
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The bill was co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and passed the Senate unanimously Monday.
Brown did not respond to a request for comment made through her office.
The legislation would affect state employees in the Public Employees Retirement System Plan 1 and Teachers Retirement System Plan 1 who retire after Sept. 1 of this year.
An actuarial report prepared for the Legislature shows 10,354 still-working PERS Plan 1 members and 2,125 who are not working but who are vested in retirement benefits.
The report shows 5,204 working members in TRS Plan 1 and 841 not working but vested in retirement benefits.
Members who are vested could be affected by the legislation if they return to work for the state.
Current law allows retired workers to come back to work for the state -- and collect full paychecks as well as full retirement benefits -- for up to 1,500 hours per year, or the equivalent of slightly more than nine months of 40-hour work weeks.
Current law also allows an employeeto work a full year at 30 hours a week without having retirement benefits reduced.
Senate Bill 5852 would reduce that allowance to 867 hours, meaning a full-time employee working 40 hours per week would see a drop in retirement benefits about 21 weeks into the year or could work about 16 hours per week for an entire year and keep collecting full benefits.
That's consistent with the policy for members of state retirement plans other than PERS 1 and TRS 1, a legislative report said.
Contribution rates to the retirement plans would not be affected.
The fiscal note analyzing the costs and savings of the bill estimates the legislation might save state and local governments a few million dollars per biennium, but savings projections are based on the assumption that some plan members would choose to delay retirement if their options to return to work for the state are more limited.
The amount of savings could change, depending on how many workers choose to delay retirement, the report said.
"In a normal year, we'd call this a good savings, but in this year, it's a fair amount," Hewitt said.
At last estimate, the state faced abouta $4.5 billion gap between projected spending and projected revenue that lawmakers will have to close in the 2011-13 budget.
Hewitt said the deficit and the overall economic picture in the state were among his reasons for introducing the bill this session -- with the state's unemployment rate exceeding 9 percent, he thought jobs should be available for younger workers struggling with unemployment, not those who already have retired and are collecting pensions.
"I think when you retire, you shouldn't be able to come back and double-dip," Hewitt said.
The bill now moves to the House for consideration.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; email@example.com