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Retirement plan bill wins O'Malley backing

Gov. Martin O'Malley on Thursday said he supports a bill that would give workers whose employers don't provide pension plans or 401ks easy access to retirement accounts.

The support came as a Senate committee held a hearing on a bill by Sen. James Rosapepe, a Prince George's Democrat, that would require employers with more than five employees to either provide retirement plans or let workers have contributions to accounts automatically deducted from their paychecks.

A companion bill sponsored by Del. Tom Hucker is pending in the House. The Montgomery County Democrat said Thursday that participation would be voluntary for employees and that employers would not be required to contribute matching money. He said the only thing employers would have to do is make arrangements with their payroll management companies to allow the automatic deposits.

About half of Maryland workers do not participate in a retirement fund, Hucker said. "Hundreds of Marylanders are lurching toward retirement without adequate savings and won't be able to maintain their way of life," he said. He said the state faces a "financial crisis" because more of the elderly poor will need public assistance.

Hucker said the bill would set up a board to oversee the plan, which would likely hire a private manager to manage members' investments.

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