Pension Reform? Who Needs It!

A State House News Service story, picked up by the Boston Herald, shows the Legislature expressing strong distaste for pension reform. Governor Patrick has filed a bill which contains reforms that are necessary by any sane fiscal standard. But sanity shall not be the standard here. The bill, from the State House News Service:

Patrick’s proposal bears out the recommendations of a pension policy commission that delivered its verdict last year, boosting state workers’ retirement age, hiking from three years to five the period for average earnings upon which retirement allowance calculations are based, and capping maximum annual pension payments. Budget hawks call the changes necessary to help the state cut back on the system’s unfunded liability, which leapt from $12 billion to $22 billion during the recent market collapse. The state is on track to appropriate $1.4 billion to the system in fiscal 2011, with $1.1 billion of that sum going toward the shortfall.

So the system teeters towards insolvency, with crushing pension payments on localities and the state. And the response to common sense reforms?

“I don’t think there’s any appetite to do any additional pension reform this session,” said one veteran lawmaker familiar with Speaker Robert DeLeo’s view of the bill.

Michael Widmer testified about the numbers that are so bleak, pointing out the obvious. Either benefits must be cut, or the system must be funded with additional tax dollars. But Widmer was followed by labor, who caused the above listed lack of appetite.

A string of labor leaders followed Widmer, at least one attacking him personally. AFL-CIO president Robert Haynes railed against Widmer and Boston Foundation president Paul Grogan, calling them “selfish, selfish businesspeople” and “the Widmers of the world, and the Paul Grogans of the world, all the Goody Two-Shoes people who think they know more about work than working people.”

Describing himself as “angry,” Haynes, who has repeatedly criticized the state’s Democratic officials for what he called a host of anti-labor decisions, dared “one of these business guys [to] criticize a teacher in my presence. They will get the full wrath of Bobby Haynes.”

I have attached the latest report from Widmer’s Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation on state and municipal finance. The numbers speak for themselves. Pension Reform??? Who needs it.


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