From the Quincy Patriot Ledger:  Governor Patrick "has signaled his intention to end runaway health care and pension costs for state employees. Medical benefits and pensions for public employees in Massachusetts have been out of whack for a very long time. The system is organized to invite abuse. Even people who technically aren’t public workers – those who sit on local or state boards, for example – are in too many cases granted access to generous benefits.

"Far more important is the age-55 minimum for retirement. This  and so much else about the state’s benefits flies in the face of the new reality for private-sector workers.

"Since the advent of the 401(k) retirement account and the consequent decline in guaranteed pensions, the majority of working men and women know they must design, and pay for, their retirement. To do so, they must sock away a significant portion of their income. They should not be expected at the same time to subsidize, through state taxes, overly generous pensions for public workers.

"Ditto for health plans, especially at the municipal level – the last refuge of the $5 co-pay, says the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. Cities and towns, hard hit by cuts in local aid, are begging the Legislature for relief, the ability to change health insurance plans outside collective bargaining. That change could save $100 million in the first year alone."
 
 
The Boston Globe editorial today is about Middlesex County Sheriff James V. DiPaola deciding in the end not to take both a pension and a salary: "What’s disturbing is that the laws ever offered him the temptation to double-dip." We agree and hope the governor and legislature act immediately to close this loophole which wastes our money and erodes our trust.
 
 
From today's Boston Globe: Middlesex County Sheriff James DiPaola had figured out a legal way to simultaneously collect his state pension of $98,500 plus his sheriff salary of $123,000. Then after an attack of conscience sparked by a call from a Globe reporter, he decided to simply retire and collect his pension -- at the age of 57.

This article also ran today: On how most Massachusetts residents feel like the recession has not ended, and are "struggling with layoffs, uncertainty, and diminished circumstances." Yet their taxes are still going to pay for public sector workers retiring at an age they can only dream of, collecting a pension they can only dream of, and earning a salary they can only dream of. 

And to top it off, the people who are supposed to be keeping us safe by preventing convicts from re-offending are taking payoffs to hire ex-cons as probation officers.

I am sure I am not the only one who sees something wrong with this picture.
 
 
From the Salem News: "Municipalities simply cannot afford to maintain the status quo. [Melrose mayor Robert] Dolan noted that every cent of new revenue his small city brings in goes not buy better equipment for the schools or hire more police officers, but to pay the annual increases in employee health insurance."
 
 
From today's Boston Globe:
SJC orders probation overhaul as report finds rampant fraud
Lawmakers fed budget to keep jobs coming
The same old sad story


"In the course of 307 gripping pages, Ware portrayed a critical state agency that morphed into a possibly criminal enterprise, where the commissioner hired and promoted based on whether applicants were supported by the right legislators while the public was taken for a ride. A river of money ran through the process; applicants gave legislators campaign contributions, and legislators rubber-stamped bloated budgets for probation officials."
 
 
From today's Boston Globe: "The Massachusetts Port Authority board of directors yesterday abruptly withdrew a proposal to boost executive director Thomas Kinton’s salary by $22,000 to $317,000 a year after the Patrick administration’s sole appointee on the board objected."

Wow, common sense prevailing. Nice to see.
 
 
From Time Magazine, a sobering look at the financially unsustainable teacher pension system across the country. "Today there is an almost $500 billion shortfall for funding teacher pensions, and that gap is growing. Why should you care? Because ultimately taxpayers are on the hook for that money."
 
 
From today’s Boston Globe: “Mayor Thomas M. Menino vowed yesterday to go to Beacon Hill to fight for a state law that would allow the city of Boston to save millions of dollar on health care insurance.”

This is an effort that Voters Count is working on – we are surveying state senators and representatives on whether they support giving municipal leaders the authority to make changes to employees’ health care without requiring a union vote.

It won’t happen without a huge fight tho: "“We should sit down and negotiate and not let the city dictate what kind of health care we have,’’ said Rich Paris, president of the Boston firefighters union." (Note to Mr. Paris: The rest of us have employers that dictate what kind of health care we have. And if you're a contractor or self-employed, you pay 100% of the costs.  I’m just sayin’…)

 
 
Thursday's Globe story on Governor Patrick's plans for his second term: "He named as priorities a handful of issues he discussed during the campaign, including plans to curb health care costs, to create jobs by maintaining state support for the alternative energy industry, to further rein in pension abuses, and to narrow the achievement gap in the schools." Sounds good!