Maryland House and Senate negotiators tackled some of the thorniest budget questions Monday morning, resolving key differences over how to rein in the cost of the state’s pension and retiree health-care systems after talks stalled late last week.
State retirees will pay more for health care, but not as much as the Senate-backed proposal envisioned. Under the compromise plan, new state workers will receive a less generous retirement package and have to work 10 years instead of 5 to be eligible for retirement benefits.
“We ended up in a good place for retirees, but we don’t save nearly as much money,” said Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-Howard), chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
The Senate approach, for instance, would have reduced the state’s annual pension payment by $20 million more than the House version, he said.
For retiree health care, the compromise would cap out-of-pocket costs at $1,500, instead of $1,000 per individual as the House proposed. The Senate version would have gradually increased out-of-pocket expenses for retirees to ramp up to the higher federal Medicare rate. The cap is currently $700.
Budget writers also signed off on a compromise that would give retirees a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment if the pension system hits its investment targets, and a 1 percent bump if the plan falls short on returns.
Negotiators are scheduled to return late Monday afternoon to try to resolve their remaining differences.