Retirement Systems

State patrol retirement measure advanced to select file

A proposal that would change provisions related to the Nebraska State Patrol Retirement System was narrowed and advanced from general file April 2.

Sen. Eliot Bostar
Sen. Eliot Bostar

Under the retirement plan currently, the contribution rate for both State Patrol members and the state is 16.26% of a member’s monthly compensation.

As introduced last session by Lincoln Sen. Eliot Bostar, LB196 would reduce the contribution rate for patrol members to 8% and increase the state contribution rate to 25%. It also would increase annuity amounts for a patrol member’s surviving spouse from the current 75% to 100%.

Lastly, the bill as introduced would change the cost-of-living adjustment from the lesser of the Consumer Price Index changes or a set percentage — from 1% to 3% based on hiring date and length of service — to the greater of those two factors.

Bostar said the State Patrol has been losing troopers “at an alarming rate” that continues to rise. Pay increases aren’t enough to turn the tide, he said, and LB196 would be a valuable tool in recruitment and retention.

“Reaching sufficient staffing levels has become increasingly difficult,” Bostar said.

A Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee amendment would remove the changes to the surviving spouse annuity and the COLA provision. It also would adjust the employee contribution rate from the bill’s 8% to 10% and the state rate to 24%.

Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, chairperson of the committee, said the State Patrol had suggested the changes as a way to lower the bill’s fiscal impact and that they negotiated with the governor to reach a consensus. A required actuarial study of the amendment has indicated a financial impact of $2.5 million to the state’s general fund, he said.

Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln supported the amendment, while saying she preferred the bill as introduced. Losing the COLA provision and the increase to the surviving spouse annuity was a “real disappointment,” she said, but a more balanced distribution of contribution rates reflects an acceptable compromise.

An amendment offered by Elmwood Sen. Robert Clements instead would change the contribution rates to 12% for members and 22% for the state. He said the amendment would “split the difference” between the current contribution rate for State Patrol members and what they asked for in the bill initially.

North Platte Sen. Mike Jacobson supported the Clements amendment, which he said would strike the right balance between supporting the State Patrol and fiscal responsibility. State Patrol members recently received a 22% pay increase, he said, and further increases in their compensation would put pressure on counties and cities to match that compensation for their own law enforcement — likely leading to an increase in property taxes to pay for it.

“We can all talk a good game about [how] we want to lower property taxes … but it starts with spending. It starts by controlling our spending,” Jacobson said.

Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln opposed the Clements amendment, saying public safety should be a top priority for lawmakers. She said supporting law enforcement personnel who “put their lives on the line” for Nebraskans is a worthy investment of tax dollars.

“Don’t let this be the thing that you decide to cut,” Wishart said.

The Clements amendment failed 24-16, one vote short of the number required.

An amendment was then offered by Bostar to extend the deadline to file a claim under the state’s In the Line of Duty Compensation Act from one year to three years after the date of death. It was adopted 42-0.

Following the 45-0 adoption of the committee amendment, senators voted 44-0 to advance LB196 to select file.

Bookmark and Share