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Ariznoa House Approves Public Safety Pension Changes

Hoping it's a start to fixing a financially troubled system, the state House voted Thursday to make key changes to the pension program for police and firefighters.

The package is designed to address the fact that the obligations of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System exceed its assets by more than $6 billion. In an effort to pay that down, some cities are paying nearly as much in pension premiums as they are in salaries. Most of the changes will affect only new employees, forcing them to pick up a higher share of the costs, limiting their ability to retire early and keeping them from spiking their pensions by saving up overtime.

Proponents say it should speed restoration of the fund to financial health. But Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Tucson, called it window dressing. "I have great trepidation, if you will, because I don't think it actually solves the problem. But it provides the appearance that it's solving the problem."

One change would affect existing employees and retirees, capping future cost-of-living increases at 2 percent. That, however, requires voter approval in May.