By Max Sullivan
Posted Feb 15, 2019 at 2:42 PM
Updated Feb 15, 2019 at 4:59 PM
CONCORD -- Hampton state Rep. Renny Cushing’s bill to have the state pay into its retirement system passed the state House floor this week, though its future with the governor is still undetermined.
The bill, which would have the state pay 15 percent of retirement costs for teachers, police and firefighters, passed the House in a 256-120 vote Thursday, sending it to the House Finance Committee where bills that require spending get final approval.
Cushing, a Democrat, and other proponents have said the Democratic Statehouse majority that took over in November would likely push the bill through to the governor this session. Several bills seeking to bring back state funding to the retirement system have been introduced since lawmakers ended the contribution in 2011, and none have reached the governor’s desk so far.
Whether Republican Gov. Chris Sununu will sign Cushing’s bill this session is unknown. Sununu’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment from his office on whether the governor planned to sign it. Cushing said he hoped to get an indication on Sununu’s intention after the governor unveiled his proposed budget Thursday, but he said Friday he still has no indication either way.
Cushing said he is also watching to see whether the bill will get out of the House Finance Committee, which retained a similar bill he put forth two years ago after it passed a House floor vote.
Finance Committee Division I is taking up the bill before the full committee. Committee chairwoman, Patricia Lovejoy of Stratham, is the only Democratic state representative to vote against the bill. Lovejoy did not return a phone call Friday seeking comment on her intent with the bill when her division sees the bill.
“I will say the Division I that it’s under is my only concern,” Cushing said. “I guess I’m holding my breath.”
The state once paid 35 percent of the cost for its retirement system, and advocates for Cushing’s bill have said the Legislature originally established that contribution to draw municipalities into joining the New Hampshire Retirement System. Lawmakers said the withdrawal nine years ago left cities and towns to shoulder the full cost, forcing them to raise significant amounts in property taxes or make budget cuts.
Cushing and other proponents have said the state has reneged on its promise to municipalities and needs to return to paying. Despite any uncertainty with Sununu or the Finance Committee, he said Thursday’s vote left him optimistic.
“I thought it was a clear signal that the House is ready to restore the broken promise,” Cushing said. “I took it as a really positive sign that the new Democratic majority is willing to act on property tax relief.”