House Passes Pension Reform
It wasn’t what the Governor asked for, but the House passed an amended pension reform article as part of the budget.
Despite threats of lawsuits by teachers unions, the House of Representatives has approved a slate of pension cuts aimed at shaving a total of $55 million off the soaring taxpayer cost of providing pensions to more than 26,000 public school teachers and state employees, including new judges.
The final vote for the package was 50-to-24.
For reasons that remain largely unexplained, House Finance Committee Chairman Steven Costantino introduced, and won support, for a last-minute amendment exempting District Court judges from the new curbs the budget seeks to place on the pensions available to judges hired after July 1. When asked the reason, Costantino said: “They are in a different statute.”
In one vote after another, the House rebuffed attempts to stretch the retirement age to 65, or avert any of the pension cutbacks by re-amortizing the state’s pension debt, to avoid having to make any cuts now by stretching out the payments.
House leaders objected strenuously to both, with House Majority Leader Gordon Fox delivering an impassioned speech in which he said: “This is when it’s going to be step-up time… Now is the time for you to be profiles in courage, not to placate who is going to be supporting me with a campaign check in the next election, not worried about you may offend somebody.”
“So welcome to the club ladies and gentleman. Welcome to the club because these are your times and you are either going to rise to the occasion and make the tough decisions or you are not,” Fox said. “Send the message that we are not going to put off to our children and our grandchildren the decisions that we need to make now because I would hate to think that some poor state representative 15 years from now now is going to have to deal with the crap we left them.”
I still think that age 65 makes a helluva lot more sense, given current actuarial tables and all, but it is a step in the right direction.