Police, firefighters, lawmakers work together on pension reform

- A six year battle over a lot of money has come to an end. It involves pension programs for Phoenix firefighters and Phoenix law enforcement and how that money is going to be paid out.

This was a rare event here at the Capitol where Democrats, Republicans and unions worked together. They say this plan cuts costs and creates a more viable pension system, yet still leaves police and firefighters with a solid retirement.

"The firefighters and police associations support the plan. They aren't going to do something that hurts their own members," said Arizona State Senator Debbie Lesko.

But it doesn't come without some financial sacrifices from firefighters and police officers, including raising the age to start collecting your pension from 52½ to 55 and capping it at $110,000 a year instead of $200,000.

Every member of the state senate, both Democrat and Republican, signed off on the legislation, which was spearheaded by Lesko.

"I was determined all along that if we worked together and brought in all the parties that we could solve this," she said.

"This was a non-partisan effort where people put aside their egos and voter registrations to solve a huge problem," said Mesa Mayor John Giles.

Unlike past efforts, this time, many of the unions are on board.

"Your firefighters acknowledge that there is a pension crisis in Arizona. We acknowledge it. We don't like it. We are here to fix it. We are here to make sacrifices because our service comes first," said Bryan Jeffries of the Professional Firefighters of Arizona.

The new system gives employees who start after 2017 a fresh start, not responsible for the pension liabilities of older workers.

"It is what I call the credit card debt. Those of us currently working are going to have to pay the credit card debt. But the new people getting hired tomorrow will only be on the hook for what is going to be their futures. So the new people may be not be paying as much as we are paying today," said Jefferies.

One more change: right now, retirees collecting a pension get a four percent increase almost every year. This plan changes that to living adjustment -- capped at two percent that would be tied to the consumer price index. However, to make that change, the voters would have to approve it, so legislators are rushing to get that on the ballot for the special election in May.

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