Bill seeks improved retirement system for public safety employees

Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje (file photo)

Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje introduced Bill 137-36 (COR) to fund an actuarial study with the Government of Guam Retirement Fund for the costs and benefits of an improved retirement system for public safety employees.

The bill is co-sponsored by Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes and Senator Mary Camacho Torres.

Public safety employees have asked for years for a retirement plan that takes into consideration the physical rigors of their jobs. The actuarial study will cost an estimated $75,000.

Currently, public safety employees must continue to work and pass the POST physical test until they are 62 years old to qualify for retirement under the hybrid plan. While the POST physical test requirements are currently suspended, it is estimated that a significant portion of public safety employees in GovGuam would not pass the test, mostly older employees.

If public safety officers lose their job before the age of retirement, they lose their hybrid plan retirement account and will not even have a social security account to fall back on.

“I introduced Bill 137-36 (COR) because every single state in the country has a separate retirement consideration for firefighters, public safety employees, and other uniformed personnel in recognition of the physically demanding nature of the work. Workers under the new hybrid plan in Guam cannot retire until the age of 62, which is one of the oldest ages for retirement for public safety employees in the nation,” said Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje.

Hawaii allows state and local police officers, firefighters, and other public safety personnel to retire at 55 years of age with 25 years of service, or 60 years of age with 10 years of service.

In California, law enforcement, fire suppression, state highway patrol, conservation officers, and youth authority officers can retire at age 50 with at least 5 years of service.

In Washington state, the Washington State Patrol retirement system allows an officer to retire at any age with 25 years of service or at age 55 with no minimum years of service. In fact, in Washington patrol officers are required to retire by age 65, recognizing that the job is too physically demanding after that age.

In Nevada, public safety officers and firefighters can retire at age 50 with 20 years of service, or at age 60 with at least 10 years of service.

These are the jurisdictions that some of our most seasoned officers are going to because they know that they have a better benefits system in place that recognizes the physical toll this kind of work takes.

“We have an attrition crisis in our public safety agencies. We lose more officers than we can train. We train police cadets here and they serve a couple of years on Guam and then they move to these other states because the benefits are better. Bill 137-36 is essential to the retention of our public safety officers,” said Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje.

“We need an actuarial study to determine what kind of employee contribution will allow our public safety officers to retire with dignity at a more reasonable age like their stateside counterparts.”

(Office of Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje release)