Under the new system, police and firefighters who have a "partial incapacity" will receive at least 52.5 percent of their final earnings, while those who have a "total incapacity" will receive at least 70 percent. The current disability pension program gives all qualifying employees 67 percent of their salary, whether they break a wrist or suffer paralysis.
The council estimates that more than $1.5 million would be saved as a result of the bill -- $2.7 million if the multi-tiered system firefighters already use is extended to all public safety employees. Most council members voiced support for the measure last week.
Sponsored by Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville, and Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, as well as Council President Valerie Ervin, the bill would take effect July 1, 2012.
The county executive and the unions are allowed to create an alternative pension program that would replace the council's system -- as long as it is multi-tiered -- through the collective bargaining process and submit it to the council before April 1.
The bill also allows the executive to negotiate the terms of the disability pension separate from those of other benefits, rather than as one package.
At a council committee meeting last week, Fraternal Order of Police President Marc Zifcak argued that the bill disregards the established bargaining procedures.
"Police officers risk their lives every day, and all we ask is that the process is followed," he said. - Rachel Baye