COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Some Republican lawmakers want to increase certain pension fund contributions.

House Bill 296 is sponsored by Representatives Thomas Hall (R-Madison Township) and Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) and would incrementally, over four years, increase the contribution amounts to the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund.

“To encourage people to be in law enforcement,” Speaker of the Ohio House Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said. “And to have that incentive and that benefit, frankly, of a solid retirement. For what they do for a living, I think they deserve that.”

The increases would only apply to police officers. Under the bill, the pension contribution amount would go from 19.5% to 24% by the start of 2027. Firefighters are already at 24%. The bill’s sponsor said it is a proactive step.

“If we don’t address this now, we feel like it could be a bigger problem in a few years to come,” Hall said.

The bill is being heard in the Ohio House Pensions Committee, and will likely cost local municipalities, and eventually taxpayers, millions of dollars. While the bill is led by Republican representatives. The potential cost is why not all Republican committee members, like Representative Tom Young (R-Washington Township) are on board right now.

“Right now, people are hurting in Ohio, they’re hurting across the country and that is evident every single day, and this is another choice citizens are going to be charged for,” Young said. “Municipalities might be flush with cash now but that can be fleeting in an inflationary environment.”

“Our locals only have so much money in a pot, I get that,” Abrams said. “But at the end of the day without your police and fire, nothing else is going to be happening.”

Last General Assembly, House Bill 512 was introduced to take similar action. That version of the bill would have increased both contributions for fire and police to 26.5% by the start of 2027. 

That bill was projected to cost more than $50 million in calendar years 2023 and 2025.

“I am optimistic that the number will be a lot lower in this time,” Hall said. “But I think it’s still premature of us to really talk numbers until we get those final numbers from LSC (Legislative Services Committee) on the fiscal impact.”

Abrams said this a route to ensuring retention in the state’s local police forces.

“Policemen are leaving every single day,” Abrams said. “We are going to see a decrease in the amount of troops in the street and that’s a concern.”

But Young said the issue is not unique to that field and a larger issue needs to be addressed.

“I think there’s a problem retaining police, and fire, and also military, doctors, nurses, surgeons,” Young said. “We have a shortage in Ohio. Never in my life have I experienced an economy that has more jobs than people to fill them.”

The bill’s sponsors said they are willing to come to the table to find a solution.

“This is an important step in making sure those folks have a good retirement,” Stephens said. “Now, what that exact [contribution] number is, I think that’s up for debate and will be part of the committee process.”