Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Unions AND Conservatives Slam Mi Senate's Teachers bill
Detroitnews The Michigan Senate passed legislation in October ensuring all but two of the 38 senators in the chamber could get lifetime retiree health insurance at age 55 with 90 percent of premiums paid by taxpayers.
Seven months later, some of those same state senators have drafted major changes to the retirement system for school employees that provide less lucrative health care benefits than what they wrote for themselves, 14 term-limited House members and 226 retired legislators.
A Senate bill proposes requiring school employees to wait five more years than legislators to draw retiree health insurance and pay twice as much in premiums as lawmakers grandfathered into the system, current retirees and up to 62 survivors.
The perceived inequity is drawing the ire from two unlikely allies — labor unions seeking to protect their members' benefits and free-market conservatives who advocate putting public employee fringe benefits more in line with private sector compensation.
"Now that the Legislature is enacting more rational retirement benefits for government employees, it's fair to point out what's good for the goose is good for the gander," said Jack McHugh, senior legislative analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Midland-based free-market think tank.
To justify the retirement age difference, senators note their bill got rid of retiree health care for 98 current legislators with fewer than six years of service while they're considering letting existing school employees keep their benefit, but at an older age.
"If they have already gained and vested, I would say, we're not taking it away from them," said state Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Grand Rapids.