It is bad enough that police and firefighters beg for still more taxpayer money, the worst part is politicians are willing to go along with it. Please consider Pension reform fight has makings of a war.

Like it or not, lawmakers will be asked this year to overhaul the state’s public pension systems that serve 1.7 million Ohioans and cost local governments more than $4 billion a year.

It’ll be an epic struggle among powerful interest groups to determine how the burden of shoring up the pension systems is shared.

Teachers, cops and firefighters may be asked to work longer. Retirees will likely face higher medical costs. And taxpayers may be asked to chip in as much as $5 billion toward the pension systems, if lawmakers accept proposed increases from two of the state’s five public pension funds.

The Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund and State Teachers Retirement System are asking for rate increases that, over the next five years alone, would cost local governments hundreds of millions of dollars.

State Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, described the viability of making taxpayers shell out more through higher employer contributions as “highly unlikely, probably impossible,” given the economic slump and the financial struggles local governments already face.

“This isn’t just putting a new coat of paint on the house” said Ken Thomas, a city of Dayton employee who chairs the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System board, which is proposing adding two years to the eligibility age for a full pension for its members. “This is re-doing the foundation.”

None of the proposed changes, however, call for following the private sector into 401(k)-type plans that might ease the burden on local governments and schools.

“The goal should be to continue the defined-benefit plan,” said state Rep. Todd Book, a Portsmouth Democrat who chairs the Ohio Retirement Study Council.

Opposition to raising employer contribution rates already has begun to surface. In Springboro, where multiple levy defeats have forced the district to close a school, cut back on busing routes, lay off workers and boost participation fees for extracurricular activities, the proposal is about as welcome as an H1N1 outbreak.

“The community already feels we compensate every employee in our school system wonderfully,” said Kelly Kohls, who was elected to the school board in November. “We’ve been very generous.”

Sensible Goals

Pray tell why should defined benefit plans be the goal? The goal ought to be to get rid of them. Is Todd Book watching his pocketbook or that of taxpayers?

It clearly is not the latter. Not another dime of taxpayer money should go to increasing employer contributions. Enough is enough. Taxpayers need to get rid of clowns like Todd Book.

Citizens of Ohio, dump Book.

Graft On Ohio Public Employees Retirement System Board

Take another look at the self-serving comment of Ken Thomas, a city of Dayton employee who chairs the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System board: “This isn’t just putting a new coat of paint on the house. This is re-doing the foundation.

Clearly Thomas’ statements are nothing but complete self-serving pomp. Adding two years to the eligibility of a full pension does not eliminate any structural problems. To re-do the foundation one would have to

1) Eliminate defined benefit pension plans
2) Lower the assumed benefits
3) Cap employer contributions
4) Make the plans accountable for pension assumptions, not taxpayers

The reason change is so difficult is

  • Pompous clowns like Ken Thomas (acting in their own best interests) dominate pension boards
  • Legislators unwilling to stand up to unions are on the public gravy train themselves

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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