BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Changes to the pension fund for Birmingham city workers are a big step closer to reality.
The bill, HB510 passed the Alabama House Tuesday 24 to 2, 57 abstentions following a very spirited debate with members of Jefferson County’s delegation.
Representative Allen Treadaway (R), sponsored the bill. Rep. Treadaway said the federal government now requires cities/counties to address unfunded liabilities and it would take an act of the legislature to make this fix.
Mayor Randall Woodfin and his staff told the city council that the bill, which he supports, would increase contributions from city workers by .5 percent, and mandate the city pay whatever an actuary determines it needs to pay annually to fix a fund that is only 53% funded.
“The main part of this bill in Montgomery, again, is not the .5 or the other things that have been part of this conversation,” said Woodfin. “The main thing is boxing in the city to always do its portion separate from politics, separate from whomever is the mayor going forward.”
However, vocal opponents of the legislation including former pension board trustee and retired Birmingham Police sergeant Dexter Cunningham argue that the fund is not in dire straits, due to legislation 2017 that increased employee contributions and set a floor for city contributions. Cunningham says it is unfair to ask workers to pay more for a plan that he says would also make it tougher to recruit new employees.
“This is going to impact citizens in a negative way and employees in a negative way,” said Cunningham. “The only win out of this is for this administration to improve their bond rating.”