The two remaining candidates for New Haven mayor share the belief that the city’s pension system needs reform, although they disagree on what specific changes to make.
Both New Haven pension funds, one for police and firefighters and another for all other city workers, have less than 50 cents on hand for every $1 promised to employees.
Sen. Toni Harp won the Democratic primary earlier this month. She supports converting to a hybrid pension system.
Essentially, a hybrid pension plan pairs a small pension with a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan. The benefit of a hybrid plan is that costs are more predictable, while still providing protection for employees who outlive their savings. It also provides employees with more flexibility when investing and spending their retirement savings.
Harp told the New Haven Independent defined-contribution plans by themselves are “unstable for retirees.”
Justin Elicker, a Democratic alderman, is challenging Harp as an independent. Elicker would consider going even further than Harp, suggesting during a debate that the city transition its retirement plan all the way to a 401(k)-style plan.
“We, as New Haven, are the Detroit of 10 years ago,” Elicker said at a debate last month, referring to Detroit’s recent bankruptcy, brought on largely by ignored pension promises.
However, he told the Independent he would consider keeping traditional pensions for lower-paid employees.