Pension Pile On

The State Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, has passed a pension package which gives a seemingly small benefit to state and municipal retirees. That small benefit, which lifts the amount of pension eligible for a COLA (cost of living adjustment) from $12,000 to $16,000, will have a cost that will run into the billions. Additionally Senator Marian Walsh added a provision putting municipal retirees into the bill but providing NO ADDITIONAL FUNDING! So, the legislature wishes to make a gesture to retirees but does not wish to offer the funds to pay for it. They would instead dump more onto beleaugered cities and towns, and expect local property tax payers to pick up the tab. This comes at a time when we are faced with one bad decision after another at the local level due to lack of funding. This turkey of a bill has passed the Senate as part of the budget package and needs to be killed in conference.The Boston Globe wrote a story on it, and had Mayor Lang of New Bedford comment:

“It’s a tremendous gesture, but the money doesn’t exist,” said Mayor Scott W. Lang of New Bedford, who says he would have to lay off six current employees to make it work for the city’s 1,721 retirees. “I have absolutely no qualms whatsoever of bumping that to meet the inflationary needs, but there’s no funding. Without the funding it’s illusory.”

The State would meet obligations to their own retirees not by funding this boondoggle but by extending by three years the period of time to reach full funding of their own pension system. This is an accounting gimmick that ought not to be replicated by localities. In Methuen in this budget cycle we are forced to fund an additional $600,000 over last year to meet this full funding schedule. It is one of the local budget busters, and this bill will only add to the pain felt by cities and towns throughout the commonwealth. The Globe has written an editorial on this bill called “Mortgaging the Future” today that highlights some of the ridiculous features of this legislation. From the Globe editorial:

STATE AND LOCAL retirees haven’t had an adjustment to the cost-of-living formula in their pensions since 1997. They deserve a reasonable increase, but the state won’t provide the money and municipalities can’t afford it. The Legislature was wrong to resort to an accounting ploy that would burden a future generation of taxpayers.

And the Senate:

Last week, the Senate performed its own bit of pension mischief. It approved a budget rider that would encourage cities and towns to provide cost-of-living increases for their own retirees. Local pension boards would have to approve them, as would another local governing authority.

Senator Walsh says she wants a dialogue. I suggest sending the money to fund your own bill Senator. That is all the dialogue you need.

Senator Marian Walsh of West Roxbury says she merely wanted to open a conversation on the issue, but, without further state aid, any discussion will quickly turn contentious. Unless local officials want to offend their retirees and their current workforce (the retirees of the future), cities and towns would have to find the money by stretching out their own pension funding, cutting services, or seeking a property tax increase.

On top of all that the MMA points out that the bill eliminates the executive branch of cities and towns from participation in this decision making locally, an absurd deficiency. I hope that the Governor lines this item out if it reaches his desk. No additional mandates without funding.

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8 Responses to Pension Pile On

  1. Jules Gordon says:

    Oh, Your Honor,

    Isn’t this fun. Here you are with
    your “friends” out there trying to give you the ability to manage your own budget, all the while sticking this bugetary knife into your exposed back.

    Aren’t you proud of your party for it’s ability to manage the state and municipalities;

    1. This pension turkey.

    2. Accumulated administrative retirements and sick leave byouts (33 million in Boston these last few years. These perks are for friends and families of the political class.

    3. Tele-commuting from Venizuela.

    4. Union stanglehold from the town to the city level.

    If it got any better than this I could not stand it.

    Ahem, how many of your “friends” voted for this bill?

    I think it would be fair to say if it passes you owm me a TUB SIZE SATRBUCKS coffee, even if your “friends” come through, sorta. They would cancell each other out. Zero sum.

    THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING. We lost 300,000 people since 2000. I wonder why.

    Worst part. We will put these “friends” back into office again.



  2. Jim says:

    I’ve got to give you credit Mayor.

    It’s far easier for a non-municipal/non-state employee like myself to belittle this proposal. However, with you being in a ‘double-edged sword’ type of situation, you are to be commended!

    On the one hand, you stand to benefit from such a proposal (for which it would be far easier for you to be quiet on this issue though Jules would be on you like flies on poop…).

    Yet on the other hand, you are looking at this legislation impartially and objectively and recognizing the negative financial impact it will have on the taxpaying public.

    Who knows, maybe this is the governor’s way of getting all the cities/towns folded into the state pension plan….;-)


  3. Bill Manzi says:

    I must humbly accept the criticism and say that when the time comes I am in for two LARGE mochas at Starbucks. I am trying to see if I can send that coffee bill over to Steve Baddour, and will say that he can take an extra three years to fund it.



  4. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    No criticism inteneded. You were courageous, as pointed out by Jim, to bring this to our attention as I know you want to entertain me.

    I get a burr under my saddle when this Keystone Cops gang known as the Massachusetts General Court is complimented when they are obviously incompetent and corrupt.

    Roumor has it that Senator Baddour, the brave, is planning a toll booth on 213 to bring in revenue to cover the coffee.

    You did not answer the question as to whether any of your Merrimak Valley political “friends voted for the proposal.

    I eagerly await further news.



  5. Bill Manzi says:

    The Senate vote, as I understand it, was unanimous. That included the Republicans. I do not believe the House voted on the local provision added by Senator Marian Walsh. That will need to be reconciled in the conference committee.


  6. Bill Manzi says:

    A funny point about the Governor. Methuen was one of the communities ordered into the state pension system. If they keep serving up turkeys like this the whole State will be there shortly as well.



  7. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,
    Now you are obfuscating.

    My question; Did your “friends” (who are suppose to relieve you from state induced financial burdens) vote for this turkey?

    Answer: as it turns out, is YES.

    Your answer: The Republicans voted for it. ALL FIVE OF THEM???

    There is no Republican influence here.

    This is a 100% Democratic (your “friends”) issue which your constituents will pay for.

    Will you send them a thank you note?

    Begin thinking of a time to buy me my Starbucks coffee.



  8. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    Follow up statement:

    I can hardly wait to see who you will support in the next state office elections.



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