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‘Don’t lump us together’ – Ohio police reject Republican pension reform due to teacher controversy • Ohio Capital Journal

‘Don’t lump us together’ – Ohio police reject Republican pension reform due to teacher controversy • Ohio Capital Journal

“We have five buildings, we have five different investment groups,” he said. “We have a tremendous number of employees, tremendous overhead and costs. Can we reduce that? Can we stop spending so much money?”

Plummer is not yet clear on other important logistical aspects, but said he has spoken about them with several other GOP lawmakers who are on board.

Weinman rejects this.

“Just because one system seems to be having problems right now, it’s really unfair to lump all the others together,” Weinman said.

He said OP&F would lose its voice in a sea of ​​pensioners.

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) is the largest with 1.2 million members. Next is STRS with 500,000 members. The School Employees Retirement System of Ohio (SERS) has 240,000 members. OP&F has 60,000. The smallest is the Ohio Highway Patrol Retirement System (HPRS) with 3,000 members.

“What our members do on the street is not even remotely comparable to what a BMV employee would do,” said the retired officer, explaining that both jobs are valuable. “There are just so many different dynamics there and so many different needs.”

However, the FOP doesn’t just represent police officers. It also has sheriffs and deputies. However, OP&F only represents police officers and firefighters. Deputies fall under OPERS, which has been a struggle for Weinman.

“They are simply overshadowed by everyone else,” he said. “We have already experienced what it is like to be a small minority in a very large system.”

The lack of power at OPERS, as Weinman describes it, seems to be a microcosm of what could happen to the police under a giant pension fund.

“Given the small number of our OPERS, I cannot have anyone elected to the board,” he said, noting that the sheriffs’ concerns are therefore often ignored.

Weinman is one of dozens of retirees who have spoken out against it. I’ve received messages from retirees in all five pension systems – all concerned and confused about how this will work logistically and legally.

It is unclear what this plan might look like: Would these combined pension funds be paid out equally to all retirees and beneficiaries? Would they also be distributed equally, regardless of what each individual receives now? Would the “combined” plan ultimately result in lower incomes for current retirees and beneficiaries?

“Me and (state Rep.) Tom Young are working on the legislation and then we’ll move forward,” Plummer said. “We need the input of retirees, but people also need to think logically and have common sense.”

There is no problem too big to be solved, he added.

“We need good, intelligent people who are willing to work on it,” he said.

They don’t have a structure for how this is going to work, but he knows he wants to address the question of why the highway patrol isn’t integrated into the police and fire departments.

Another plan of his is to “crack down” on disability pensions, referring specifically to criminal prosecution.

“We’ve had too many people leave the company because of disabilities, it’s a long-term burden,” Plummer said. “I’ve seen people work for five years, then go on disability pension – and now we have to pay for them for 60 years.”

Weinman replied that this was ridiculous considering that OP&F had drastically cut disability benefits.

“The frustrating thing is that there are people with real disabilities, and when people keep repeating this nonsense about ‘fake injuries,’ it causes them to continue working,” the retired officer said. “They’re afraid of the stigma.”

He wants to see more control and restructuring at least within the STRS board of directors to prevent possible cases of corruption.

“We should bring in people with the knowledge, background and expertise to pay attention to who is investing our money and how much they are investing where,” the Republican added.

I asked whether it could be considered undemocratic to deprive elected members of their vote.

“Well, it depends on how we set it up,” he replied to his proposal. “If we have a large board, they still have the right to elect people.”

This can only be one elected person per separate unit within the large pension system, he added. There will also be appointments and investment experts.

I asked the other pension funds for their opinion, but only STRS spokesman Dan Minnich commented publicly.

“Several recent audits have found that STRS Ohio is well managed and follows best practices in its operations. Over the 20-year period ending March 31, 2024, STRS Ohio’s net return on total fund investments was higher than 97% of Meketa’s (the pension board’s investment adviser) peer group of plan sponsors,” Minnich said. “STRS Ohio staff is in ongoing discussions with state legislators and will provide legislators with any information requested as they continue their discussions on the administration of the pension system.”

I asked STRS what he thought about other pension systems being upset about infuriating lawmakers, but he did not respond to that question.

“Do you think police and fire will be left behind if we combine all systems?” I asked Weinman.

“Absolutely,” he replied. “There are so few of us and if we are put into such a large system, we will be forgotten.”