First responders plan to protest bills that cut retirement benefits

Posted at 6:44 PM, Dec 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-05 18:44:04-05

Hundreds of first responders are expected to march into the Capitol in Lansing on Tuesday. They are protesting an effort in the Michigan Legislature to limit retirement benefits for public employees. 

The effort comes in the remaining days of a lame duck session  This will affect thousands of teachers, cops, firefighters and others.

There numerous bills being looked at. One would ban new teachers from getting a pension. They would instead have to get a 401K. 

Several bills introduced in the House would make cut health care benefits for retired police, fire and other local government workers. 

Bloomfield Hills Superintendent Rob Glass says he has concerns about how the changes will impact school funding. 

Right now payments from new teachers are helping to fund the pensions of retired teachers. If new teachers are not part of the system, that money will have to come from somewhere.

Districts and the state would have to come up with as much as $9 billion to cover pensions already promised.

“For us, it is $2.5 to $3 million dollars a year in cuts that we would have to endure,” said Glass. “That affects our classes. That affects our children.”

Bloomfield Hills is fortunate to be a relatively wealthy district. He says the impact will be even worse in other districts.

“This impacts all school districts, but particularly those that are in distress,” said Glass.

Scott Warrow, a teacher in the Birmingham School District says if retirement benefits are cut, teachers and other workers will want more pay.  If that isn’t possible, many will seek other opportunities.

He points out there is already a teacher shortage.

“This would significantly impact the recruitment of new teachers,” said Warrow.

Republican lawmakers who introduced the bills say they are needed to help schools and communities financially.  They say if underfunded retirement systems aren’t addressed, some communities will face bankruptcy.

Rep. Peter Lucido (R-Macomb County) says that he agrees something needs to be done to address under-funding in retirement systems.

He says he doesn’t agree with forcing through bills during the last days of a lame duck session.  He is concerned about how the bills would cut benefits to government workers and first responders who have already retired.

"if you are on a fixed income, how are you supposed to take money out of your pocket that you don’t have. I need to hear those conversations before we make law otherwise we make really crummy policy during the holidays,” said Lucido.