Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reform of MPSERS Retirement System Necessary – But Only Wisely

Governor Granholm proposed changes to the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS) in her budget proposal. With the contribution rate public schools and community colleges needing to pay going up to 19.41% for the coming school year, it is obvious that the system is unsustainable. Changes must be made to keep the program actuarially sound, and yet affordable by the education system.

Governor Granholm’s proposal was aimed to create cost savings to help balance the budget, but also contained a sweetener to entice long tenured employees to retire (and allow lower cost new employees to be hired) by raising the multiplier of 1.5% to 1.6%, for a 6.6% increase. The multiplier is multiplied by the number of service years credited to the employee. For example, with 30 years of service, and if the highest 3-year average salary were $60,000, at a multiplier of 1.5, the retirement payments would be 1.5% x 30 x $60,000 = $27,000 per year, while at 1.6% they would be $28,800.

The Senate chose not to include the sweetener in Senate Bill 1227, while adopting the bulk of the Governor’s proposal. Significant savings would result. On the other hand, the Democrat controlled House of Representatives amended the bill to send back to the Senate the bill increasing the sweetener from 1.5% to 1.7% or a 13.3% increase, plus a plethora of additional sweeteners.

The worst change made in the House is changing the lifetime health coverage to a constitutionally protected fringe benefit, which it is not now classified. The Michigan Capitol Confidential estimated the added burden to the State would be a new $25.9 Billion liability for the taxpayers.

When the State is having trouble adopting a balanced budget, does it make sense to be adding to the State’s costs and liabilities? Well, to the Michigan Education Association bankrolled and controlled House Democrats, apparently it does.

I say “NO, IT DOES NOT!”

With the bill thrown into a free conference committee, the Senate Republicans would be better off coming out with no bill than a poor one, just to get something agreed upon. With the state the state is in, we cannot afford to saddle the taxpayers with even more costs and liabilities.


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