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Alabama Lawmakers Look to Limit Teacher Pension Costs

Alabama will be one of the next states to try to reign in the costs of teachers' pensions, if one of the state's most powerful lawmakers has his way.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard tells the Birmingham News that he and the leader of the state Senate are determined to bring down the state's costs, by focusing on making changes to the retirement system for future, rather than current employees.

"We can't change the rules in the middle of the game for people," Hubbard said, according to the News. But he warned of a "colossal train wreck" if the state doesn't fix the problem.

In fiscal 2011, the state paid a total of $963 million to the state's teachers' and employees' retirement systems to help keep them financially healthy. That was an increase of $449.2 million over a five-year period.

At least 27 states have made changes this year to their pension systems affecting teachers or other public employees. In most cases, states made changes that required public workers to chip in more for their retirement plans.

Many state officials have argued that they need to drive down the costs of public pension plans, which they say are eating up too much of state budgets. Teachers unions have countered that pension liabilities have been exacerbated by the recession, and that state lawmakers and governors have made the problem worse by having skimped on the yearly contributions necessary to support those plans.

Expect to hear those arguments playing out in Montgomery soon.

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