Retirement Group Study

SEPTEMBER 2006 - A special Blue Ribbon
Panel on Massachusetts Public Employees’ Pension
Classification System has issued its report and
recommended changes for how the retirement groups
are constituted.

Formed by the co-chairmen of the Joint Committee
on Public Service, Representative Jay Kaufman and
Senator Patricia Jehlen, the Blue Ribbon Panel was
charged with the task of examining and suggesting
changes that would depoliticize the process of determining
group classification status. Currently, public employees
are grouped into four retirement categories, which
are set by statute.

The eight-member panel was chaired by Alicia Munnell,
director of the Center for Retirement Research at
Boston College. Other members included Ellen Bruce,
Edward Burrows, Joseph Connarton, Peter Diamond,
Scott Harshbarger, Elizabeth Keating, and Alan MacDonald.

Splitting its recommendations between
short-term changes and long-term goals, the Panel
has made a series of suggested changes to our current
retirement structure. The basis for most of the
changes is designed to reflect an employee’s
actual job responsibilities, rather than job title.

Over the long-term, the Panel feels that while the
current 80% maximum retirement allowance is reasonable,
most employees should be required to work until age
65 in order to collect their full retirement benefit.
However, police, fire, and corrections officers would
remain in a separate group and allowed to retire

“There are some parts of this report that
are controversial and some may oppose. However, there
are other parts of this report, which are helpful
in terms of making the case that our defined benefit
retirement system is healthy and overall working
well,” said Association President Ralph White. “Beyond
that, we know that there are groups of employees
performing difficult and dangerous jobs, who should
be allowed to retire early. The many bills, filed
each year for reclassification, has always been a
legislative quandry.

“The Public Service Committee
is going to closely examine this report and may
end up filing legislation during the next session
to address some of these issues. That is a process
that will heavily involve the retirement boards
and unions. These are important issues that will
not be taken lightly.”