When Utah’s hybrid employment plan became effective in 2011, some of the state’s IAFF members were left worrying about being able to afford to retire. But during this year’s state legislative session, the Professional Fire Fighters of Utah (PFFU) successfully lobbied for the passage of SB 129, which adjusts the state code to increase the percentage paid monthly and reduce the number of required years of service for fire fighters and police officers.
“Due to the nature of the job, our members are at greater risk of incurring serious injuries and occupational illnesses which lead to early retirements,” says PFFU President Jack Tidrow. “SB 129 changed the state code to better reflect these concerns.”
In 2010, Utah lawmakers passed legislation to amend Utah Code Title 49, creating Tier II, a hybrid pension system for public employees hired after July 1, 2011. Employees, including fire fighters, had the choice of a hybrid defined benefit plan or a 401(K)-style plan.
Under the defined benefit plan, employees could expect to receive only 37.5 percent of their final salary upon retirement. Additionally, fire fighters and police had to work 25 years to receive their full benefit while other public employees had to work 35 years.
Meanwhile, those hired prior to July 1, 2011, or Tier 1, can retire after 20 years of service and receive 50 percent of their final salary.
“Once our state legislators heard our concerns, they knew adjusting Tier II was the right thing to do,” says Tidrow.
SB 129, which passed on March 14, 2019, raises the salary percentage from 37.5 to 50 percent for Tier II and requires fire fighters and police officers to serve a minimum of 25 years.