FAQFAQ   SearchSearch  MemberlistMemberlistRegisterRegister  ProfileProfile   Log in[ Log in ]  Flint Talk RSSFlint Talk RSS

»Home »Open Chat »Political Talk  »Flint Journal »Political Jokes »The Bob Leonard Show  

Flint Michigan online news magazine. We have lively web forums


FlintTalk.com Forum Index > Political Talk

Topic: GOP targets pensions-teachers, cops, fire fighters,unions
Goto page 1, 2  Next
  Author    Post Post new topic Reply to topic
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Pam Faris
Just now ·

Elections have consequences.
Democrats in the senate are fighting this republican bill to go after school employees.
Yesterday in the house there were 13 bills introduced to go after municipal employees retirement and health care. They will be up in committee this morning.

Democrats will fight these changes. Republicans introduced them.
Like


Michigan Education Association
17 hrs ·

From the Free Press: Debate raged at the Capitol on Wednesday over Republican plans to close the school employee retirement system to new members, as a new Senate Fiscal Agency report pegged the cost of the legislation at $1.6 billion to $3.8 billion over five years.


Last edited by untanglingwebs on Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:38 pm; edited 3 times in total
Post Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:18 am 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

About MEA


We All Need to Prepare for Public Employees Pension Fight
Submitted by mgarcia on Tue, 10/18/2016 - 15:45
The DeVos family has announced they’re coming after your pension.

Hence the battle has begun to try to shape public perceptions on the issue, and MEA members and retirees will need to get up to speed to help combat misleading claims by our opponents and sway lawmaker votes on legislation.


The fact is the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) is not broken. It won’t bankrupt our state – unless, perhaps, antagonists succeed in shutting it down. And the loss of a secure retirement safety net for school employees will only exacerbate teacher shortages already being felt in Michigan.

Rumors of a coming public pension fight had swirled in Lansing since summer, and they were confirmed with a speech in late September by Amway President Doug DeVos – who called restructuring of government employee pensions the top goal of the West Michigan Policy Forum.

That’s the same group behind the Legislature’s ramrodding of so-called right-to-work legislation in 2012 and corporate tax cuts before then.

In his speech, DeVos said the West Michigan Policy Forum’s vote to advocate moving public employees to a 401(k)-style retirement system “sends a message to all of our elected officials. And we take these (votes) very seriously; we move them forward with all of our might.”

The DeVos family contributed nearly $1.5 million to Republican legislative candidates in this year’s August primary. Visit mcfn.org/donor-tracking to see how much the DeVos family has given to your legislator.

The attack on MPSERS is expected to occur in December’s legislative lame duck session – a post-election period before the new Legislature is seated in January, when a significant number of legislators remain in power who lost re-election or have been term-limited out of office.

Time is short in lame duck – and pressure is high. And while the pension issue is complex, our messages are simple and clear: MPSERS is on solid financial ground, pensions provide important economic benefits, and West Michigan billionaires should not be dictating public policies that benefit the wealthy and harm the rest of us.

View the MEA arguments in support of maintaining MPSERS here.

The DeVos political machinery and conservative pundits have already begun issuing statements to spread unsubstantiated fear among the public – despite the fact that significant changes were already made in 2012 that will continue to stabilize the system if given time to work.

School employees hired after the passage of PA 300 in 2012 were placed into a “hybrid” system combining elements of both a traditional defined benefit pension and a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. Those savings will not accrue for several years.

The hybrid system is fully funded – and the 2012 law eliminated retirement healthcare benefits for new hires. Like other investments, MPSERS has been recovering from the economic downturn of 2008 and is on track to rebound if given time.

In the long- and short-term, closing the system would cost hundreds of millions of dollars per year with no savings realized for more than 30 years. This raises the question: Why would a billionaire attack public employee pensions that amount to a small nest egg of typically less than $15,000 per year?

Read more of the full argument in favor of maintaining MPSERS.

MEA lobbyists have been raising member awareness and discussing the issue with Republican legislators to counter the DeVos influence. In addition, MEA is working to develop a coalition of labor, school management, and local government groups to work on the issue.

Now and in coming weeks, we need members and retirees to join the action in a letter-writing and lobbying effort that will be vital to our success. If you want to strengthen the chorus, get ready to add your voice.

Lobbyists say these are the actions you can do to help win the fight:


Follow MEA on Facebook and subscribe to our legislative newsletter, Capitol Comments, for regular updates and calls to action.
Read up on the MEA’s arguments against gutting MPSERS, and write letters to the editor in your local newspaper.
Call, write, or visit your state lawmakers – even if (maybe especially if) you fear they will not support school employees in this fight. Those are exactly the legislators who need to hear from a large number of people, so get your friends and family members to join in.
Now is not the time to be intimidated or defeatist. Republican lawmakers will face pressure to vote with their caucus on this issue, so opposition from constituents will be crucial. Visit them during in-district office hours or public-access opportunities, such as coffee hours.
Push back against misconceptions that school employees have so-called “Cadillac” benefits. Share the facts about the history of MPSERS: Created in 1945, MPSERS has fulfilled its goal of providing a modest but stable pension to sustain public servants in their retirement years.

The system has been reformed several times in the past 37 years, adding different plans depending on hire dates or member selections – ranging from Basic to MIP Fixed, MIP Graded, and MIP Plus, and now the Hybrid – and altering multipliers and benefits.
Over the past 20 years, however, there have been repeated efforts to close MPSERS and convert to a 401(k) plan that provides a less secure retirement than a traditional pension. It’s not about fiscal responsibility—it’s yet another example of the winners-and-losers mentality guiding decision-making in Lansing.

We’ve won this argument before. Let’s do it again.
Post Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:29 am 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Attendees from 13th District meet Sen Marty Knollenberg R
Senate Schedules Hearing For Pension Bills - ACT NOW!

Senate leaders have now publicly stated they plan to pass damaging pension changes during lame duck, with hearings in that chamber starting Wednesday morning. It's urgent that all members mobilize around the issue - and stay on message about the huge costs these changes would mean for taxpayers.

According to the state's own budget experts, the plan to gut school employee pensions would cost taxpayers billions of extra dollars while providing a less secure retirement to new school employees - while threatening the solvency of the defined benefit system that active school employees and retirees rely on. Everyone has a stake in this fight.

SB 102 is scheduled for a 9 a.m. Wednesday hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. It would move all new school hires into a defined contribution, 401(k)-style retirement plan, even though the changes already made to the pension system in 2012 are working.

Experts in the Department of Technology, Management and Budget peg the increased costs at $1.2 billion next year alone - with a 30-year price tag of $24 billion.

The question we have to ask in phone calls, emails, and letters to lawmakers: Who will pay those enormous costs? Will taxes go up? Or will lawmakers slash school spending again? To cover that $1.2 billion first-year cost, funding would need to be cut $820 per pupil!

Also up for hearing are SBs 1177 and 1178 - bills that would spread out the state's pension costs over 50 years, instead of the current 22 years. This is an attempt to make the increased costs of closing the pension system appear smaller by spreading them out until 2067 - long after every current employee has retired and passing the buck on to future legislators and taxpayers.

Send an email to your State Senator and Representative with a personalized message through our Action Network page. If you want to call your lawmakers, look up your lawmakers' contact information here.

Such drastic "fixes" to the school employee pension system are not necessary, because recent changes are working. The hybrid system created in 2012 is fully funded, and investments are rebounding from the economic downturn of 2008.

For his part, Gov. Rick Snyder has been opposed to making further changes, and reaction in the House has been mixed. Your efforts matter-besides phone calls, emails, and letters to lawmakers, consider writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or getting involved in other efforts locally to get the word out. Look for ways to rally your MEA colleagues and bring parents, administrators, and business leaders into the fight!

And stay in touch with Capitol Comments and MEA's Facebook page for updates on rapidly changing developments in lame duck.
Activitist Meet with Legislators at the Michigan Capitol Nov 29th

Over 120 people gathered outside the Michigan Senate and House chambers November 29 to talk with their legislators about pensions and health care. Participants in the event, sponsored by the Coalition for Secure Retirement represented several groups, including MEA-Retired, MEA, AFT and AFSCME among others. The Michigan Senate is moving this legislation in the lame duck session and the Michigan House is expected to do the same.
School Employee Pension Attack Emerges as Top Republican Priority

It’s official -- Michigan’s new Speaker of the House, Rep. Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt), says one of his top priorities will be to come after educator pensions.

“1 of Speaker-elect Leonard’s top priorities – moving newly hired teachers to 401k instead of a pension. Snyder admin has been reluctant #mileg,” tweeted Associated Press reporter David Eggert (@DavidEggert00) Thursday afternoon.

Whether it happens in the abbreviated “lame duck” legislative session between now and mid-December, or lawmakers wait to take it up when a new Legislature is seated in January, MEA members need to begin mobilizing now.

That means educating yourself, colleagues, friends, and family of what’s happening and why what's being discussed is wrong for employees, retirees and the state. Read more about how the billionaire DeVos family is behind this latest attack on public school employees and the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS).

Learn how the system was already reformed in 2012, how the current hybrid system is fully funded, and how shifting new employees to 401(k)-style pensions would cost the state hundreds of millions per year in closure costs, and more.
Post Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:33 am 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Teacher unions prep for lame duck pension fight

Brian McVicar | bmcvicar@mlive.com By Brian McVicar | bmcvicar@mlive.com

on November 22, 2016 at 7:15 AM
G0608MEARALLY02In this 2011 photo, Michigan Education Association members from lakeshore area schools rally in Holland's Centennial Park highlighting Michigan State government cuts on education Tuesday afternoon.MLive file photo

Michigan's largest teacher's union says it's prepared to fight legislation that would put new school employees into a 401(k) and prohibit them from accessing a retirement plan that more closely resembles a traditional pension.

The Michigan Education Association calls the proposal a "political attack on school employees," and is worried that lawmakers will attempt to push the measure through during the lame duck session.

"This provides a solution to a problem that does not exist," said MEA spokesman David Crim. "This seems like another political attack on school employees that we will fight vigorously."

The legislation would prohibit new teachers from entering into a defined benefit plan and instead put them into a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. Since mid-2010, new teachers have been placed in a hybrid pension/401(k)-type plan.

Republican-backers of the proposal say it's needed because - over time - it would reduce a $26.7 billion unfunded liability carried by the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System.

"MPSERS is unsustainable," said Rep. Tim Kelly, R- R-Saginaw Township, a sponsor of the legislation. "We need to close off the system."

However, union officials say making the switch would cost "hundreds of millions" of dollars if not more. An independent analysis in 2012 -- commissioned by the state of Michigan -- found that making the switch could cost about $4.5 billion over the first decade.

Unions also worry that offering teachers less generous benefits would make the profession less attractive to future applicants. Many teachers have already seen a reduction in benefits in recent years, as well as static pay, they say.

"The best and brightest are looking at other professions," Crim said.



Gov. Rick Snyder to appeal 3% teacher retirement case without AG Schuette's help

Snyder, Schuette diverge on case.

The Michigan Association of School Administrators echoed that concern. MASA has not yet taken a position on the legislation, but believes it's important to maintain "robust and competitive benefits that can attract and maintain a quality workforce," said Peter Spadafore, the group's associate executive director for government relations.

He said it's also important that any change doesn't cost school districts more money.


"Trying to rush this through in lame duck might not be the best strategy," Spadafore said. "It does deserve careful deliberation and discussion."

Kelly pushed back on the assertion that putting new teachers in a defined contribution plan would reduce interest in the profession.

"Most people don't have pensions anymore. I think pensions are a relic of the past," he said. Later, he added: "A pension or lack thereof shouldn't be why someone becomes a teacher."

James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free market think tank that has long advocated for MPSERS reform, said the legislation won't have an immediate impact, but will yield significant benefits over the long term.

"Containing the ability to rack up this unfunded liability is going to be huge," he said. "This is the biggest debt the state has. This will have a huge financial consequence over the long term."

In a 2012 paper, Hohman argued there are several ways to minimize the cost of transitioning to a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.

Michigan's school employee retirement system was last overhauled in 2012. A law, which unions challenged in court, required teachers to pay more toward their pensions or face benefit cuts.

Michigan's Democratic-controlled State Board of Education voiced opposition to the legislation this week. In a statement, the board said "we fear that this move will lead to higher liabilities in the current pension system and cost the state taxpayers billions of additional dollars."

"A 2012 study determined that the transition costs to place public school employees into the same defined contribution plan as other state employees would cost an additional $13.6 billion over 30 years, plus an additional $4.5 billion in short-term costs," the statement said.
Post Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:38 am 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

GOP donors target police, fire and teacher retirements
Curtis Hertel Jr. 1:33 p.m. EST November 30, 2016
Money
(Photo: Mark Wilson, Getty Images)
Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen communities all over Michigan dramatically reduce the number of police officers and fire fighters on our streets. At the same time, the need for our first responders has never been greater. The situation for our teachers is no different. They have more kids in their classrooms and fewer resources to educate them with, and frequently must use their own money to bridge the gaps.

It’s become the new reality of government here in Michigan.

Like so many working families here, we’ve asked these public servants to make significant personal sacrifices in the name of financial security -- and they’ve never batted an eye. They epitomize doing more with less.

But according to the DeVos family, the pension funds for those police officers, fire fighters, and teachers are at the center of Michigan’s financial woes -- and must be eliminated.

It couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The reality is that pension systems are actually cheaper than 401k retirement accounts. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, pensions can deliver the same retirement income at a 48% cost savings.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Look at states like West Virginia and Wisconsin, both of which are expanding their pension systems. West Virginia alone estimates the cost savings over 30 years in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion. That’s astonishing.

The DeVos family doesn’t want you to know it, but the real financial catastrophe would happen if we eliminated pension plans altogether. Pension funds rely on current employees paying into the fund for stability. When you halt employees paying into a system, leaving only retirees being paid out, the system becomes underfunded very quickly and local governments are the ones responsible for the shortfall. On top of that, these local governments would now be responsible for contributions into current employees 401ks.

The math doesn’t add up. But maybe that’s exactly what they want.

Frankly, DeVos and big money donors aren’t looking to save the government money. At the same time that the majority of Michiganders are doing more and getting less, the DeVoses are paying less and getting more. They’re trying to use public employee pensions as a scapegoat while their estimated wealth remains in the billions.

By pointing their fingers at our first responders and teachers, they’re trying to make everyone forget that they’re helping to bankrupt our cities. Over the last decade, the State of Michigan has underfunded local governments through revenue sharing cuts to the tune of $6.2 billion, all while corporations pay far less in taxes. This is simply not sustainable.

This Legislature cannot continue to blame our public servants while they starve our local governments at the direction of big-money donors.

Curtis Hertel Jr. is a state senator.
Post Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:14 am 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Michigan Senate panel votes to close school pensions to new members
Paul Egan and Kathleen Gray , Detroit Free Press 8:48 p.m. EST November 30, 2016

LANSING — The Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee voted 9-8 Wednesday to close the school retirement system to new members, despite expert testimony from the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder and others that the move will cost billions.

The bills moved to the full Senate, where they were expected to be taken up as early as Wednesday night, but the close committee vote slowed the fast-track legislation, making a Thursday Senate vote most likely.

Debate raged over the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System at the Capitol, as a new Senate Fiscal Agency report pegged the cost of the legislation at $1.6 billion to $3.8 billion over five years.

The main reasons for the increased costs are that employer contributions to the 401(k)-style plan will be close to three percentage points higher than they are to the existing "hybrid" school retirement system — which mixes a smaller defined-benefit pension with a defined contribution plan — and that with no new money coming into MPSERS, more conservative investment strategies will be called for and expected returns will be significantly lower.

Administration officials from the Office of Retirement Services pegged the cost even higher than the fiscal agency did — at $2.5 billion to $4.7 billion over five years.

"It will cost more money and put additional pressure on classroom funding," testified Kerrie Vanden Bosch, director of the Office of Retirement Services.

Republican Sens. Mike Nofs, Goeff Hansen and Marty Knollenberg broke with the majority to join Democratic Sens. Vincent Gregory, Curtis Hertel, David Knezek, Hoon-Yung Hopgood and Coleman Young in opposing the pension measure. Republican Sens. Dave Hildenbrand, Peter MacGregor, John Proos, Tonya Schuitmaker, Darwin Booher, Mike Shirkey, Jim Stamas and Jim Marleau voted yes.

The sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, did not dispute that the upfront cost could be $1.6 billion over five years, with about $214 million expected to be borne by school districts and the balance borne by the state.

But he said the move is still needed because otherwise the current MPSERS will continue to accrue new unfunded liabilities, putting the system and retirees at risk, as well as taxpayers.

"It's our mortgage," Pavlov told the Free Press. "It costs what it costs," but "we're protecting current retirees, future retirees, and taxpayers with these measures."

Under an amendment approved just before the legislation was reported out, lawmakers said the state School Aid Fund will cover the extra cost that would have been borne directly by school districts, estimated by the Senate Fiscal Agency at $214 million over five years.

The committee, over the objections of school employees, took up the legislation during the lame duck session to force new hires into a 401(k) style pension plan, instead of the blended pension and 401(k) system they can use now, known as the hybrid system.

Democrats denounced the legislation, noting that while MPSERS has an unfunded actuarial liability pegged at about $26.7 billion, the hybrid system has no unfunded liability.

"I'm trying to figure out what problem we are trying to solve," said Hertel, D-East Lansing, who questioned what impact the change would have on recruiting and retaining good teachers.

"I feel the speed with which we're moving this is wrong," said Young.

The move is backed by the Michigan Freedom Fund, which is bankrolled in part by the influential Republican DeVos family of western Michigan, and Amway President Doug DeVos spoke of the need to tackle public pension issues at the West Michigan Policy Forum in September. Americans For Prosperity, a conservative group funded in part by the Koch brothers, also pushed for the legislation.

Annie Patnaude, deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity, pointed to a recent poll her group commissioned which found 62% support for moving new school employees into defined contribution plans — with support above 80% among younger voters.

"This is not only good, sound policy -- it's good politics," Patnaude told the committee.

But Catherine McLogan, a retired teacher from the Canton school district, told the committee that after hearing the testimony from the fiscal agency and Office of Retirement Services, she couldn't make out a coherent reason for closing MPSERS.

"You ... have a preconceived notion of what the retirement system should be," McLogan told Republicans on the committee.

Pavlov's legislation does not call for accelerated funding, which the Senate Fiscal Agency report said would be consistent with best practices, and which would push the five-year costs of the legislation to $3.8 billion. The administration estimate of the five-year cost, if accelerated funding is used, was $4.7 billion, though Vanden Bosch said making those extra payments would save the state $4.9 billion over 30 years, just as increasing payments on a mortgage can result in big long-term savings.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday he expects the bills to pass the full Senate on Wednesday, but those plans were delayed.

Under 2012 legislation affecting MPSERS, which modified earlier changes made under former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, new school hires can't fully participate in the defined-benefit pension plan that longer-serving school employees participate in. Instead, they can join a smaller traditional pension, combined with a defined contribution plan.

Snyder said last week that hybrid system for school employees is working well, and union leaders and some analysts say the state would face significant upfront costs to bolster the existing pension system system if all new hires are forced into 401(k) style plans.

Senate Bill 102 does just that. Meekhof suggested Tuesday the legislation would be modified to moderate the upfront costs. Pavlov also is the sponsor of related Senate Bills 1177 and 1178, addressing school employee retirement, which the committee also voted out.

According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, MPSERS had an unfunded actuarial liability of $26.7 billion as of 2015. The hybrid system has no unfunded liability, according to Senate Fiscal Agency analyst Kathryn Summers, but money is being paid today to avoid potential risk in future years.

The fiscal agency report also said closing MPSERS to new members could result in significant additional short-term costs, if best practices are followed, including $2.1 billion over five years in recommended accelerated funding, plus significant additional costs in increased funding related to shifting to a more conservative investment strategy, which would be recommended without new member money coming into the pension system, the report said.

Total costs, including expected impacts on other pension plans, could total $1.6 billion to $3.8 billion over five years, the report said.

The $1.6-billion cost includes $1.2 billion related to lower rates of return in MPSERS investments, $218 million in additional retirement contribution costs, borne by school districts, and $218 million related to lower investment returns that would be experienced by other state retirement systems, mainly the system for state employees, according to the report.

Vanden Bosch testified that because all state retirement funds are pooled for investment purposes, closing the MPSERS system to new members will also negatively impact the expected performance of the other systems, resulting in the need for higher employer contributions.

However, moving to a defined contribution system "would eliminate the potential for future unfunded accrued liabilities," the report said.

Not all the expert testimony opposed the move.

Anthony Randazzo, director of economic research for the Reason Foundation in New York, which has close ties to billionaire businessman David Koch, testified that removing the risk of accumulating future unfunded liabilities is important.

There is "significant risk" the hybrid system will develop unfunded liabilities in the future, based on historic performance of equity markets, he testified.

"Under a defined contribution plan (such as a 401(k)), there is no potential volatility," and "we see a lot of positive in this plan," Randazzo testified.

Hildenbrand, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, stressed that the legislation would have no effect on pensions already earned, existing employees or retiree health care.

For new employees, "we're giving them a modern, portable retirement system that will be fully funded, that they're in control of," Hildenbrand said.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Jim Ananich. D-Flint, said Republicans shouldn't expect support from Democrats, and that''s especially true if they go beyond the MPSERS system and try to reduce retirement benefits for workers at the local government level.

"We're hearing about some earned benefit cuts that Republicans want to take up," Ananich said Tuesday. "That’s the exact wrong direction that we want to go. People across Michigan sent a big message on Election Day — they want more economic security, not less.

"To take away from people who have been working hard — police officers and firemen and teachers – they say it’s only going to be the new folks, but they always say that. They won’t get any support from my caucus members and I think we’ll have unified support in the House as well."

Starting in 1997, all new state employees who would have otherwise joined the State Employees Retirement System were forced into 401(k) plans.

That move didn't cost the state billions, but Vanden Bosch testified the circumstances then were entirely different.

First, the plan was 100% funded at the time, compared with a little more than 60% today, she told lawmakers.

Secondly, the employer contributions were reduced when state employees moved from the defined benefit plan to 401(k)s, while employer contributions increase in the move from the school hybrid system to a 401(k).

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.
Post Thu Dec 01, 2016 2:48 pm 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Detroit News

Michigan Senate delays vote on teacher pension plan
Jonathan Oosting, Detroit News Lansing Bureau 2:25 p.m. EST November 30, 2016

Lansing — A plan to close the state’s teacher pension system to new hires and instead offer them 401(k)-style retirement plans met resistance Wednesday in the state Senate, which delayed a planned floor vote following new cost projections and forceful opposition from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.

Kerrie Vanden Bosch of the Michigan Office of Retirement Services blasted the GOP-backed proposal Wednesday morning in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, telling legislators the three-bill package would lead to billions in transition costs for the state.

The plan would “do nothing” to address $26.7 billion in unfunded liabilities accrued in the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System, Vanden Bosch said. “In fact, it only serves to drive the liability upward and the annual costs upward,” she said.

The state adopted a “hybrid” defined-benefit and defined-contribution retirement plan for new teachers in 2012. That portion of the pension system is fully funded, Vanden Bosch said, and has reduced the risk of additional unfunded liabilities.

“Closing the hybrid plan does not translate into freeing up more school aid dollars for the classroom, in the short term or the long-term,” she told legislators. “To the contrary, it will cost more money and put additional pressure on classroom funding.”

Despite the harsh assessment from the Snyder administration, the GOP-led committee approved the three-bill teacher retirement package in a series of 9-8 votes. Three Republicans joined all five Democrats in opposition.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, had planned to call a floor vote later Wednesday but held off after a series of closed-door discussions with fellow GOP legislators.

Republicans pushing the reform package fear the teacher pension system could collapse without further reforms. They argue that closing the hybrid system to new teachers is the only way to guarantee the system won’t accrue further unfunded liabilities, even if it will cost more up front.

“We’re fixing a bankrupt unfunded system that may not be there when (teachers) retire, and we’re giving them a modern, portable retirement system they’re in full control of,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell. “Young people want that.”

The state and school districts are expected to spend a combined $2.6 billion to pay down unfunded pension liabilities in the current budget year.

“We’re protecting current retirees, future retirees and taxpayers with these measures,” said sponsoring Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-Port Huron.

Democrats, badly outnumbered in the Senate, argue the legislation is unnecessary and that closing the pension system to new hires would make teaching a less attractive career option for young people, further exacerbating high turnover rates.

“We’re de-professionalizing the profession, that’s why they’re leaving. This is only going to make that worse,” said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-Meridian Township. “Why would anyone want to stay in this profession if they’re constantly attacked?”

Under the legislation, public school employees hired on or after July 1, 2017, would be put into a 401(k)-style retirement plan. A school district would automatically contribute an amount equal to 4 percent of an employee salary. Under an amendment adopted Wednesday, the state would match an additional employee contribution of up to three percent.

The Snyder administration anticipates the plan would lead to $25 billion in new state costs over the next 30 years, in part, because it would force the state Treasury to make more conservative investments, which are a primary source of revenue for pension funds.

The Senate Fiscal Agency projects transition costs could top $33 billion over the next 40 years, including $3.8 billion in the next five years. But the plan would eliminate the possibility of future liability growth in the pension system, said chief SFA analyst Kathryn Summers.

“You pay the money today to avoid potential risk in the future,” she said.

Some of the transition costs would be borne by the state School Aid Fund, drawing down dollars that could otherwise be used to fund local districts. The budget implications prompted a “no” vote from Sen. Goeff Hansen, a Hart Republican who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on school aid.

“I have concerns about coming up with school aid dollars at the end of the day,” Hansen said. “We’re just getting to where we’re able to fund some of the things we need to fund.”

While the hybrid teacher retirement system is fully funded right now, it’s still new and is “barely above water” despite a strong economy, said James Hohman of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market group that supports the proposed retirement changes.

“Over the long-term, the ability to contain these unfunded liabilities is the issue facing school districts,” he said. “It’s what’s driving a lot of school districts to do layoffs and seek concessions from employees. It’s important for lawmakers to get serious about pension funding.”

Critics are urging the Senate to delay any action on the pension proposal until next year, arguing that the bills deserve a more thorough vetting than the lame-duck period will allow.

Wednesday’s hearing was the first public discussion of the legislation but included more than four hours of testimony, much of it from individuals and groups opposed to the proposal.

The legislation would increase short-term costs while reducing benefits for teachers, said Julie Rowe of the AFT Michigan teachers union.

“This is just another way to slash teacher compensation and undermine them as professionals,” she said. “It’s just one in a long line of attacks coming from the ideologies that are driving this legislature.”

Hildenbrand and other supporters stressed that the legislation will only apply to new hires. An amendment adopted in committee reaffirmed the state’s constitutional responsibility to cover current pension obligations.

“It is also my intent that these benefits will continue to be funded as a top priority in our state budget process,” Hildenbrand said
Post Thu Dec 01, 2016 7:40 pm 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Cops: Health care bills ‘devastating’ for retirees
Jonathan Oosting, Detroit News Lansing Bureau 1:53 p.m. EST December 1, 2016


Lansing — Local governments across Michigan have promised retiree health care benefits they cannot afford, House Speaker Kevin Cotter said Thursday, warning that collective unfunded liabilities of $11 billion could drive more Michigan cities toward bankruptcy.

“The current system is not sustainable,” Cotter said, promoting a controversial new plan that could raise health care costs for many municipal retirees, including police officers and firefighters, who worked for local governments with large unfunded liabilities.

“Unless we address this mounting problem, many local governments will go bankrupt, retirees will be harmed, and services critical to our residents will be impaired,” Cotter said in testimony before the House Local Government Committee.

The 13-bill package, introduced Wednesday with little more than two weeks left in the “lame-duck” legislative session, would require local government retirees to pay 20 percent of their health care costs in communities that have accrued significant unfunded liabilities.

The legislation would eliminate retiree health benefits for new hires beginning in May 2017. Instead, local governments could choose to contribute an amount capped at 2 percent of an employee’s base pay to a tax-deferred Health Savings Account.

Cotter touted the proposal Thursday before the House Local Government Committee, which heard three hours of testimony but did not vote on the package. Additional debate is expected next week.

Critics say the legislation, if enacted, could have a “potentially devastating effect” on retirees who are living on fixed incomes and have already made retirement plans based on promised benefits.

“This legislation affects real people, with real lives, with real needs,” said Howell Police Chief George Basar, executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. “Unfortunately, our Legislature just looks at us as numbers on a spreadsheet with no consideration of the impact on real lives.”

Basar noted that Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature imposed a so-called pension tax on retiree income as part of a major 2011 tax code rewrite. The new health care proposal is “another assault on senior citizens and retirees in this state,” he said.

Both sides of the debate acknowledge that unfunded liabilities are a real and growing problem for local governments. While some have well-funded retiree health care programs, most do not, said Eric Scorsone, an expert with the Michigan Treasury.

Cities, townships and villages face a combined $8 billion in unfunded retiree health care liabilities, Scorsone said. Counties have a combined $3 billion in unfunded health care liabilities.

“This is one of the biggest financial risks we see as we’re trying to maintain the fiscal health of our communities,” he said.

Cotter cited Detroit as an example of a city where unfunded liabilities caused near collapse. It’s not believed the proposal would affect retirees in Detroit because its unfunded health care liabilities were wiped out in the city’s historic bankruptcy case.

Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, agreed that the problem is worth addressing at some point but criticized the new proposal as a “cuts-only” approach. He suggested there are “more creative options” to drive revenue toward local governments facing looming health care costs.

Moss also called it a “shame” that Thursday’s hearing occurred at the same time as the funeral for slain Wayne State University police officer Collin Rose. He said other officers had called his office to complain that they could not make it to Lansing.

“They had to attend the funeral as an obligation for their respect for somebody who was gunned down in the line of duty,” Moss said. “Now, here in the Capitol while they’re attending that, their pocketbooks are getting robbed.”

Rep. Lee Chatfield, who chairs the committee, said he plans to hold at least one more hearing on the package before any potential votes, but he dismissed any suggestion the final weeks of the year are a bad time to consider such a significant policy.

“When we take our oath, we’re saying we’re going to work hard from the first day we’re sworn in to the last day of session,” said Chatfield, R-Levering. “We need to continue working, even in lame-duck, for the people of Michigan and tackle the tough issues that are facing our state.”

joosting@detroitnews.com
Post Fri Dec 02, 2016 8:49 am 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

In retirement fight, GOP confronts cops, firefighters
Paul Egan , Detroit Free Press 6:16 a.m. EST December 2, 2016


LANSING — Republican lawmakers are colliding head-on with Michigan's most powerful public-sector unions after abruptly introducing bills during the lame-duck Michigan Legislature session aimed at curbing billions of dollars in unfunded post-retirement health care promised to police officers, firefighters and other local government workers.

The legislation, which opponents fear is on a fast track for passage, would end post-retirement health care for new local government workers and generally force existing workers and retirees to pay 20% of their post-retirement health care costs.

Michigan's police and firefighter unions are powerful enough that GOP lawmakers opted to exempt them when they and Gov. Rick Snyder rammed through right-to-work legislation that enraged other Michigan unions late in 2012.

Union strength, in general, has been on the wane in Michigan, widely seen as the birthplace of the modern labor movement. But police officers, firefighters and other first responders, who risk their lives each work day, maintain strong public support.

Firefighters, who suffer a 62% cancer rate, incur frequent injuries that take a toll, and deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, "will now be denied an opportunity whatsoever to secure their health in retirement," Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union President Mark Docherty told the House Local Government Committee Thursday.

Other speakers highlighted the fact the committee took up the 13-bill package on a day when many police officers could not attend the hearing at the Capitol because they were at funeral services for Wayne State University Police Officer Collin Rose, recently shot to death in the line of duty in Detroit.

But as lawmakers seek to address an estimated $11 billion in unfunded post-retirement health care liabilities at the local government level, exempting police officers and firefighters, who tend to retire earliest and make up a significant share of the projected shortfall, is not seen as a viable option.

Though costs for workers and retirees will increase, "our ultimate goal is to ensure that our police and fire have health care and have the promises that were made to them," said Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, the committee chairman, who promised more hearings next week after listening to about three hours of testimony Thursday.

The Police Officers Association of Michigan is planning a Tuesday morning rally at the Capitol in Lansing.

Though public unions are united in their opposition, three key local government groups — the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan Association of Counties, and the Michigan Townships Association — are broadly supportive of the legislation.

The package of bills would:

Eliminate retiree health care benefits for local government employees hired on or after May 1, 2017, and allow local governments to replace the benefit with a contribution into a health savings account, capped at 2% of an employee's pay.
cap a local government's contribution for retirement health benefits for existing employees and retirees at 80% of the annual benefit cost, provided the retirement system's liability for retiree health benefits is less than 80% funded at the time of the legislation, or later falls below 80%.
Make retiree health care a prohibited subject of bargaining under the Public Employment Relations Act.
Protect post-retirement health benefits that are contractually vested — meaning existing collective bargaining agreements that expressly promise specific benefits for a specific period of time.

Though such cuts are unpleasant, something must be done and "consequently, we're supportive of the bills," said Tony Minghine, the Michigan Municipal League's chief operating officer and associate executive director.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, told the committee Thursday "the current system is not sustainable," and "unless we act, many local governments will go bankrupt," hurting employees and retirees, and disrupting services.

"This is not about what benefits we would like people to have. It's about recognizing a very real problem and fixing that problem before it spirals out of control," Cotter said.

Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, said he agrees the issue is important, but "we're going to have 90 minutes to talk about bills that will impact a lot of folks in this state."

Moss said he sees a link between the $11 billion in unfunded retiree health care benefits and what he said is $7 billion in state cuts to municipal revenue sharing over the last several years.

Moss asked Cotter: "Do you feel that this important issue that we're tackling deserves more deliberative thought than we can give it in the last remaining days of our legislative schedule?

Cotter replied that he has no firm time line in mind.

However, "we do a greater disservice if we delay for the sake of delaying," he said.

Officials said that although many local governments have taken steps to address the looming crisis, the problem is generally getting worse because of spiraling health care costs and overly optimistic expected returns on municipal investments. Also, workers are retiring earlier and living longer.

Eric Scorsone, Michigan deputy treasurer, testified that attempts to fund post-retirement health care are already consuming $480 million a year from local government budgets, but that's only a little more than half of the $800 million a year that should be paid to meet obligations.

The unfunded bill amounts to about $8 billion for cities, villages and townships and $3 billion for counties, Scorsone said.

Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs for the Michigan Association of Counties, told the committee her group normally favors local control, but it supports the legislation because it addresses two issues counties can't control: binding arbitration, which can award generous health care provisions to certain employees; and legal challenges to county efforts to reduce post-retirement health care costs, she said.

Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville, who served 29 years with the Wayne County Sheriff's Department, told the committee that for workers in law enforcement, "Your wife doesn't know if you're coming home at the end of your shift," but "You're now talking about changing the state of a health care system when someone is doing their job every day to protect you."

Chatfield's response: "What happens to those police and fire (workers) if their municipalities go bankrupt?"

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.
Post Fri Dec 02, 2016 9:18 am 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Retirement benefit reforms spark dramatic clash
Jonathan Oosting, Detroit News Lansing Bureau 7:47 a.m. EST December 5, 2016

Lansing — Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature is fighting a tight timeline and intense backlash as top leaders push plans to end teacher pensions for new hires and require local government retirees to pay more for their health care coverage.

Separate Senate and House proposals seek to address tens of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities GOP sponsors say could cripple local governments or school districts, pushing them toward financial collapse that would ultimately jeopardize retiree benefits on a much larger scale.

But with two weeks left in the “lame-duck” legislative session, teachers, police officers, firefighters and other local government workers are protesting the proposals as a coordinated attack on their livelihoods and professions.


“I don’t understand why they’re doing this on the backs of retirees,” said Mike Carney of Redford Township, 54, who told The Detroit News he was given an incentive to retire from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department in early 2010 but would not have done so had he known his health care costs would rise.

“To me, it seems like these legislators are horses with blinders on and they only see one thing: We’re the vulnerable guys, they can do what they want to us and what recourse do we have as retirees?”

But House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, countered that without action, more Michigan communities could be forced into bankruptcy like Detroit was in July 2013.

“It is seriously that pressing,” Cotter said. “And to the extent we do, we’re going to have this situation again where we have much deeper haircuts being taken. No one wants to see that, so let’s do something now to save the programs.”

The House proposal, set for a second committee hearing this week, would require retirees to pay at least 20 percent of their own health care costs if they worked for a local government with significant unfunded liabilities.

The cost-sharing requirements would not apply to cities, villages, townships or counties with well-funded post-employment benefit programs, but the vast majority are underfunded. Detroit retirees, who already took significant cuts in the city’s bankruptcy case, would not be affected.

But the 13-bill package would also end retiree health care benefits for new hires across the state. Local governments could instead choose to contribute to a tax-deferred health savings account at an annual amount capped at 2 percent of an employee’s base pay.

A separate Senate package would close the state’s teacher pension system to new hires and instead offer them a 401(k)-style defined-contribution retirement plan.

Unfunded liabilities grow

Reform advocates argue aggressive action is warranted because unfunded liabilities have created a massive, but often unnoticed, threat for governments across the state.

The Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System had accrued more than $26 million in unfunded liabilities as of 2015, according to the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency.

Cities, townships, villages and counties have an estimated $11 billion in unfunded retiree health care liabilities. Moving to close those funding gaps is costing many municipalities significant money that could otherwise be spent on residential services.

Lansing, Warren, Flint, Taylor, Westland and Saginaw had each accrued more than $200 million in unfunded health care liabilities through 2014, according to a Michigan State University analysis. Pontiac, Dearborn, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids each topped $100 million.

“Bad assumptions and unrealistic promises are strangling the budgets of our schools and local governments,” Doug DeVos, John Kennedy and other members of the 13-person West Michigan Policy Forum executive committee said in a Monday letter to legislators obtained by The News.

The liabilities are “piling a debt burden on the backs of our children and grandchildren” and “risking the future of hardworking teachers, police officers and other public workers — the promises made to them must be kept,” they wrote.

Opponents acknowledge the magnitude of the unfunded liability problem, but they oppose a “cuts-only” approach for local governments. They argue both proposed solutions deserve a more thorough vetting than the lame-duck period will allow.

Reform effort hits bumps

The teacher pension proposal stalled this week on the Senate floor amid pushback from the administration of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. His Office of Retirement Services told legislators the plan could entail as much as $25 billion in transition costs over the next 30 years.

Snyder supports a hybrid teacher pension plan the state adopted in 2012, which includes a combination of defined-benefit and defined-contribution options.

“He believes moving to close that right now would not be financially prudent due in large part to the transition costs,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said in an email.

The transition cost projections are causing heartburn for some legislators, too, said Sen. Majority Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, who hopes to find enough votes for passage this week.

“I think all of the stuff we’re talking about in lame duck is a heavy lift, some more than others,” he acknowledged.

Signals for compromise

Cotter remains committed to the retiree health care reform proposal but has signaled he is willing to consider modifications to win support.

“I’m sensing an interest,” he said. I don’t know exactly what that results in. I don’t know if it’s this version of the bills … but I think this is something that is worth continuing to push forward on.”

The persistent push by GOP legislative leaders is setting up what could be a dramatic final two weeks in the Legislature, which is facing other important decisions, including a sweeping plan to overhaul the state’s energy policy.

Public safety groups plan a media roundtable Monday at Michigan’s Capitol to criticize the reform efforts. Police offers are expected to gather at the Capitol on Tuesday for a union-led protest, and Democrats are considering ways to use whatever leverage they have to stop the proposals.

At least one Democrat, Sen. David Knezek of Dearborn Heights, said last week his colleagues should threaten to withhold votes on the energy package if Republicans move forward with the retiree health care or teacher pension plans.

“I’ve got the guts to do it,” Knezek said. “I would like to see other Democrats step up and say we’re not willing to pass legislation while at the same time workers are going to be negatively affected in this state.”

joosting@detroitnews.com
Post Mon Dec 05, 2016 8:11 am 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Amid backlash, Michigan GOP backs off health care cuts
Paul Egan , Detroit Free Press 9:54 a.m. EST December 6, 2016


LANSING — Facing a strong backlash from police and firefighters, Michigan Republican lawmakers backed off today on plans to cut retiree health care benefits for local government workers during the lame duck session.
GOP House leadership announced the change in plans as police officers and firefighters from across the state demonstrated outside the Capitol during a nearby meeting of the House Local Government Committee.
Law enforcement bagpipers played on the steps of the Capitol and protesters lined the sidewalk legislators walk from the House Office Building to the Capitol.
"Members needed more information," and data for the size of unfunded retiree health care liabilities in Michigan local governments not nearly as good as reporting is for unfunded pension liabilities, said Gideon D'Assandro, a spokesman for House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant.
Cotter issued a statement that said "this is an important reform that needs attention soon, and the bill sponsors and committee members who shined a light on this situation have taken an important first step."

►Related: 7 things to watch during Michigan Legislature's lame-duck session
Cotter said: "If we do nothing, numerous cities, townships, villages, and counties across the state will go bankrupt," and "that will threaten our public safety, ruin local economies and possibly cause every retirement benefit our brave first responders currently have to be lost forever in bankruptcy court."
Instead of a 13-bill package, Republicans hope to pass just one bill, House Bill 6075, which would improve local government reporting on the issue, D'Assandro said. Then, armed with better data, the Legislature can take up the issue in the next session, he said.
Opponents of the legislation were pleased.
“The issue of liabilities needs to be dealt with, but in the proper way, and that was not in lame duck,” said Mark Docherty, president of Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union.
Chris Hackbarth, director of state and federal Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, said his group feels the issue must be addressed, but due to its complexity, "requested the House delay action on this proposal at this time and allow the opportunity to work with Gov. Rick Snyder, the incoming Legislature, and all of the relevant interest groups in the next term.“
The package of bills would:

Eliminate retiree health care benefits for local government employees hired on or after May 1, 2017, and allow local governments to replace the benefit with a contribution into a health savings account, capped at 2% of an employee's pay.
Cap a local government's contribution for retirement health benefits for existing employees and retirees at 80% of the annual benefit cost, provided the retirement system's liability for retiree health benefits is less than 80% funded at the time of the legislation, or later falls below 80%.
Make retiree health care a prohibited subject of bargaining under the Public Employment Relations Act.
Protect post-retirement health benefits that are contractually vested — meaning existing collective bargaining agreements that expressly promise specific benefits for a specific period of time.
Staff writer Kathleen Gray and Beth LeBlanc of michigan.com contributed.
Post Tue Dec 06, 2016 12:45 pm 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Anti-union bills pass Michigan House of Representatives
Kathleen Gray , Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau 10:25 p.m. EST December 7, 2016


LANSING -- The Michigan House of Representatives passed a pair of anti-union bills Wednesday night that make it harder for workers and unions to picket and easier for employers to hire workers to replace striking employees.

One bill would increase fines against picketers to $1,000 per person per day of a picket and $10,000 per day for an organization or union involved in the picket that is deemed to be an illegal mass picket. That bill passed on a mostly party-line vote of 57-50.

The other would repeal a law that requires employers to include information about an ongoing strike when they advertise to hire employees who will replace existing, but striking employees at a company. That bill passed on a vote of 59-48 on a mostly party line vote.

Democrats said the bill was an affront to peaceful protests and would allow companies to file complaints about pickets without showing any actual harm was done to their business.

State Rep. Leslie Love, D-Detroit, recalled the protests surrounding the civil rights and Voting Rights acts.

“That landmark legislation didn’t pass because we had polite protesters. We did it on buses and bridges and lunch counters. And those protesters were attacked by dogs, water hosed down,” she said. “I’m deeply appalled by these bills because I grew up in a union household and my mother took me to pickets and it was always a safe environment.”

But Republicans said the bills are needed to protect businesses from protesters who are restricting access to places of business. State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, mentioned a picket at a McDonalds in Detroit and picketers who protested at the home of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette as two incidents that need to be stopped.

The current law, which makes mass picketing a misdemeanor carrying a sentence of up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine, "has proven to be insufficient to serve as a deterrent," Glenn said. This just increases the penalties for already illegal activites."

Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, noted that laws already exist and have been working.

“We don’t need more laws,” he said.

The bills – HB 4643 and 4630 – now move to the Senate for consideration.

Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4430, kgray99@freepress.com or on Twitter @michpoligal
Post Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:36 pm 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Police: GOP healthcare plan an ‘attack on profession’
Jonathan Oosting, Detroit News Lansing Bureau 7:47 a.m. EST December 5, 2016

Lansing — Hundreds of police officers and firefighters are expected to gather Tuesday at the Michigan Capitol to protest what they’re calling “anti-public safety” legislation that would force many local government retirees to pay more for their health care and end post-employment coverage for new hires.

With just two weeks left in the “lame-duck” session, Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature is fighting a tight timeline and intense backlash as leaders also push a separate plan to end teacher pensions for new hires.

Both controversial proposals seek to address tens of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities GOP sponsors say could cripple local governments or school districts, pushing them toward financial collapse that would ultimately jeopardize retiree benefits on a much larger scale.

But teachers, police officers, firefighters and other local government workers are bemoaning the bill packages as coordinated attacks on their livelihoods that would hurt the ability to attract talented workers to the critical fields.

“The profession of policing is probably under one of the most unprecedented attacks we’ve ever seen in our history,” said retired Livonia Police Chief Bob Stevenson, head of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, referencing a spate of fatal shootings of police officers.

“We were shocked to see the next attack on our profession would come from Lansing.”

Without unprecedented action to address mounting unfunded liabilities, more Michigan communities could be forced into bankruptcy like Detroit was in July 2013, according to House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, who sponsored a main bill in the new package.

“It is seriously that pressing,” Cotter said. “And to the extent we do, we’re going to have this situation again where we have much deeper haircuts being taken. No one wants to see that, so let’s do something now to save the programs.”

The House proposal, set for a second committee hearing this week, would require retirees to pay at least 20 percent of their own health care costs if they worked for a local government with significant unfunded liabilities.

The cost-sharing requirements would not apply to cities, villages, townships or counties with well-funded post-employment benefit programs, but the vast majority are underfunded. Detroit retirees, who already took significant cuts in the city’s bankruptcy case, would not be affected.

The 13-bill package would prohibit local governments from offering retiree health care coverage to new hires. Instead, they could choose to contribute to a tax-deferred health savings account at an annual amount capped at 2 percent of an employee’s base pay.

A separate Senate package would close the state’s teacher pension system to new hires and instead offer them a 401(k)-style defined-contribution retirement plan.

Unfunded liabilities grow

Reform advocates argue aggressive action is warranted because unfunded liabilities have created a massive, but often unnoticed, threat for governments across the state.

The Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System had accrued more than $26 million in unfunded liabilities as of 2015, according to the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency.

Cities, townships, villages and counties have an estimated $11 billion in unfunded retiree health care liabilities. Moving to close those funding gaps is costing many municipalities significant money that could otherwise be spent on residential services.

Lansing, Warren, Flint, Taylor, Westland and Saginaw had each accrued more than $200 million in unfunded health care liabilities through 2014, according to a Michigan State University analysis. Pontiac, Dearborn, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids each topped $100 million.

“Bad assumptions and unrealistic promises are strangling the budgets of our schools and local governments,” Doug DeVos, John Kennedy and other members of the 13-person West Michigan Policy Forum executive committee said in a Monday letter to legislators obtained by The News.

The liabilities are “piling a debt burden on the backs of our children and grandchildren” and “risking the future of hardworking teachers, police officers and other public workers — the promises made to them must be kept,” they wrote.

Opponents acknowledge the magnitude of the unfunded liability problem, but they oppose a “cuts-only” approach for local governments. They argue both proposed solutions deserve a more thorough vetting than the lame-duck period will allow.

Holding an initial hearing on the bills last week — the next morning after they were introduced — was “straight out of the Saddam Hussein playbook,” said Ken Grabowski of the Police Officers Association of Michigan.

“Anybody who would support this in lame-duck is an enemy of public safety. We are willing to sit down and talk with people and work things out,” said Grabowski, but to move the bills now would be “cowardly.”

Reform effort hits bumps

The teacher pension proposal stalled last week on the Senate floor amid pushback from the administration of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. His Office of Retirement Services told legislators the plan could entail as much as $25 billion in transition costs over the next 30 years.

Snyder supports a hybrid teacher pension plan the state adopted in 2012, which includes a combination of defined-benefit and defined-contribution options.

“He believes moving to close that right now would not be financially prudent due in large part to the transition costs,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said in an email.

The transition cost projections are causing heartburn for some legislators, too, said Sen. Majority Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, who hopes to find enough votes for passage this week.

“I think all of the stuff we’re talking about in lame duck is a heavy lift, some more than others,” he acknowledged.

Signals for compromise

Cotter remains committed to the retiree health care reform proposal but has signaled he is willing to consider modifications to win support.

“I’m sensing an interest,” he said. I don’t know exactly what that results in. I don’t know if it’s this version of the bills … but I think this is something that is worth continuing to push forward on.”

The persistent push by GOP legislative leaders is setting up what could be a dramatic final two weeks in Lansing, where legislators are facing other important decisions, including a sweeping plan to overhaul the state’s energy policy.

Police and fire unions are organizing what they expect to be a large protest on Tuesday, and Democrats are considering ways to use whatever leverage they have to stop the proposals.

At least one Democrat, Sen. David Knezek of Dearborn Heights, said last week his colleagues should threaten to withhold votes on the energy package if Republicans move forward with the retiree health care or teacher pension plans.

“I’ve got the guts to do it,” Knezek said. “I would like to see other Democrats step up and say we’re not willing to pass legislation while at the same time workers are going to be negatively affected in this state.”

joosting@detroitnews.com
Post Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:15 am 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Michigan GOP House approves big fines for 'mass ... - Detroit News
www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/12/07/mass.../95124708/
o - The Michigan House voted to make it easier for courts to shut down “mass picketing” demonstrations and fine protesters. ... return to a disruptive demonstration already blocked by a court could face fines of up to $1,000 a day.
GOP House approves big fines for ‘mass picketing’



Lansing Bureau 9:22 p.m. EST December 7, 2016


Lansing — Republicans in the Michigan House voted late Wednesday to make it easier for courts to shut down “mass picketing” demonstrations and fine protesters who block entrances to businesses, private residences or roadways.

Under the legislation, which Democrats decried as unconstitutional prior to the 57-50 vote, individuals who return to a disruptive demonstration already blocked by a court could face fines of up to $1,000 a day. Unions or other organizing groups could be fined up to $10,000 each day.

Michigan law already prohibits certain forms of mass picketing, but sponsoring Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, said a spate of recent incidents make it apparent that “the current penalties are not sufficient to deter already-illegal activity.”

He noted reports that 39 people were arrested last month outside a Detroit McDonald’s “for blocking the entrance and preventing them from being able to conduct their business” during a protest against low wages. Glenn also cited an environmental protest outside the Midland home of Attorney General Bill Schuette in July.

But the proposal is “unnecessary, over-reaching, outrageous, oppressive and un-American,” said state Rep. Leslie Love, D-Detroit, telling her colleagues she was “particularly disturbed” because her African-American elders did not earn equal rights “solely through civil protest.”

The proposal would allow employers or others affected by mass picketing to bring an action against demonstrators in their local circuit court. It also would lower the evidence threshold required for a court to order picketers to stop demonstrations.

Under the bill, employers could obtain injunctive relief if a court determined the picketing violated a misdemeanor law that prohibits individuals from blocking “the pursuit of any lawful work or employment by mass picketing.”

The legislation might fly in “Putin’s Russia” but not in Michigan or the United States, said state Rep. Jim Townsend, D-Royal Oak, suggesting the proposal could lead to courts shutting down protests based on flimsy or even manipulated evidence.

“This is a denial of due process,” Townsend said. “What the law says now is you have to show irreparable harm, and that’s a significant standard you have to meet. And the reason we have that standard is because they’re not having a full trial.”

Glenn disputed that characterization.

“Once the injunction has been granted by a judge, then they have to come back and do the illegal activity for a second time for the fines to be enforced,” he said. “At that point they go before a judge and due process occurs.”

The legislation is now heading to the Senate for further consideration.

joosting@detroitnews.com
Post Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:17 am 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
untanglingwebs
El Supremo

If you are on Facebook, you need to follow State Rep. Pam Faris. She has been warning about pension issues for months.
Post Fri Feb 03, 2017 9:28 am 
 View user's profile Send private message  Reply with quote  
  Display posts from previous:      
Post new topic Reply to topic

Jump to:  
Goto page 1, 2  Next

Last Topic | Next Topic  >

Forum Rules:
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

 

Flint Michigan online news magazine. We have lively web forums

Website Copyright © 2010 Flint Talk.com
Contact Webmaster - FlintTalk.com >