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O’Malley names retirement task force

Former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will head a 14-member task force created by Gov. Martin J. O’Malley to come up with recommendations for spurring private sector employees to save for their retirement.

The task force was created in a May executive order after the General Assembly rejected legislation that would have required businesses with at least five employees to either offer a qualified retirement plan, such as an IRA or 401(k), or to join a pool retirement fund created by the state. The proposal is modeled on similar efforts in other states including California and Connecticut.

“This task force convenes some of the brightest minds in Maryland to tackle one of the toughest challenges facing our State: ensuring that Marylanders are able to enjoy a stable and secure retirement,” O’Malley said in a statement. “Far too many of our citizens are anxious about how they’re going to be able to afford to retire — I brought this group together to help address that.”

Included in the list of task force members are a number of union representatives, financial and retirement professionals as well as two members of the Senate and the House of Delegates including Sen. James C. Rosapepe, D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel, and Sen. Joseph M. Getty, R-Baltimore and Carroll.

Rosapepe, who sponsored the legislation in the 2014 session, was not immediately available for comment.

Getty, the lone Republican on the task force and an opponent of Rosapepe’s bill, said requiring small business to participate in a government mandated and controlled pension program raises a number of questions.

“Is this a public policy crisis that our state should have a role in, or is this an extension of the nanny state?” Getty asked. “I think it’s an extension of the nanny state.”

The bill proposed earlier this year was opposed by a number of small-business groups.

“There is no disagreement that not enough people are saving for retirement,” said Bryson Popham of Popham & Andryszak P.A., a lobbyist who represents retirement planning professionals opposed to the mandate. “It’s a problem we’re going to have to figure out. It’s certainly a worthy goal but there are lots of different ways to reach that goal.”