A Missouri House committee heard testimony Monday on legislation that would make cuts to the pension system for St. Louis firefighters.
The bill would not go as far as a proposal made by Mayor Francis Slay: Among the differences, Slay’s plan would have all firefighters put 9 percent of their salaries into the system, and new hires would not get any of that money back upon retirement. The bill in the State House would have new firefighters put in 8 percent, and upon retirement would get back 25 percent of what they paid in. F.I.R.E. Chairman and St. Louis firefighter Abram Pruitt, Junior, traveled to Jefferson City to support the bill.
“All the firefighters on the St. Louis Fire Department are for this bill, (including) our organization, (Local) 73," Pruitt said. " It saves money over the long haul, also, so it’s not just immediate savings, it’s savings in the future.”
New firefighters would also wait 10 years instead of 20 before becoming vested, but they would not be eligible to receive retirement benefits until age 55 or until completing 30 years of service. Current firefighters are eligible after 20 years.
City Operations Director Sam Dotson opposes the bill – he says reforming pensions should be the city’s job, not the state’s.
“What we want to do is bring this back to St. Louis and let the Board of Aldermen, who are directly responsible to the taxpayers, make the decisions," Dotson said. "Not representatives from Cape Girardeau and Springfield and around the state, but people that are directly responsible to the taxpayers in St. Louis."
Dotson also says the bill in the State House would only save the city of St. Louis about $7 million a year, while Mayor Slay's plan would save more than $9 million per year.
The House Retirement Committee will vote on the measure at a later date.