Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.) introduced a bill yesterday to increase the ultimate U.S. subsidy for district of Columbia a pensions more than $1 billion above the level of $769 million approved two months ago by the House of Representatives.
Under the measure, the U.S. government would pick up the entire cost of pensions for Washington police, fire-fighters, teachers and judges who retired before the D.C. home rule charter became effective on Jan. 2, 1975.
The District of Columbia government would be fully responsible for all pensions paid to those who retire after that date.
Eagleton, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, said his measure would correct a situation "largely attributable to federal action or inaction long predating home rule.
In a statement entered into the Congressional Record, Eagleton said it was Congress that required the District of Columbia to establish pension programs that are not funded in advance, requiring the city to meet soaring costs out of annual operating budgets.
"The unfunded liability for these retirement systems is estimated at $1.9 billion, which, by the turn of the century, will make the annual cost of pensions more than the salaries of those actively on duty in police and fire stations and in the classrooms," Eagleton said.
Pensions for other District of Columbia employees are handled through the U.S. Civil Service retirement program, and are fully funded on a current basis.
The problem of the unfunded pensions has worried Washington officials for years.
After long consideration by its District Committee, the House in September approved a measure that would relieve the city of $769 million of the pension debt through annual federal contributions over the next 25 years.
District Committee members said they would like to be even more generous, but were restrained by political realities.
The White House, in considering a list of District of Columbia matters this year, at one point recommended that the House-approved largesse be cut in half.
Eagleton's measure would increase the federal contribution to $1.8 billion, to be made in payments of $73.5 million a year over the next 25 years.
A spokesman for Eagleton's sub-committee said hearings would be held soon, possibly during the holiday congressional recess or early in 1978.
Mayor Walter E. Washington applaude the announced purpose of Eagleton's bill, which he said "appears to move us toward our goal of achieving actuarially sound pension programs." He said he was instructing his staff to analyze its provisions.
In addition to the increased federal contribution, the measure would tighten the enforcement of some of the rules under which the retirement programs currently are administered.
For example, most of those who retired on disability would be required to submit annual notarized statements of earned income, and to undergo an annual physical examination. Exceptions would be made for those who clearly are disabled permanently, and who are more than 50 years old.
Eagleton's measure also would remove the 1 per cent "kicker" added to cost-of-living increases in benefits for teachers and judges.
Under present rules, judges and teachers receive an increase based upon the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index, plus 1 per cent. Under the bill, the added sum would be eliminated.
Eagleton said his measure would not change any benefits for future retirees, leaving that for determination by the city and by negotiation with employees.
He said the city would be given considerably more leeway than in the House bill, since the city currently is developing a new personnel administration system independentof the federal government.