Remember the triple dippers? The folks getting a pension, unemployment, AND a paycheck? Well the Municipal Unemployment Insurance Task Force has published a report and a set of common sense solutions, including:

■ A legislative change that would no longer allow retirees who return to work for their previous public sector employer to collect unemployment if their annual pension is $53,920 or higher, because their pension offset would be the same as or greater than their unemployment benefit.

■ Employees who work at schools but are not paid by schools — such as crossing guards — would become ineligible to collect unemployment benefits during vacations.

■ Teachers who are informed in the spring they may not be hired back in the fall remain eligible for unemployment insurance, but under a new system being implemented by the Division of Unemployment Assistance, those benefits will stop if teachers receive notification they have been rehired for a comparable position by their current school district or another school district.

(Here is the Boston Globe article on this topic from a few weeks ago)
From yesterday's Wall Street Journal is this piece about RI State Treasurer Gina Raimondo who achieved the following changes to RI pension rules:
- Shifts all workers from defined-benefit pensions into hybrid plans, which include a modest annuity and a defined-contribution component;
- Increases the retirement age to 67 from 62 for all workers;
- Suspends cost-of-living adjustments for retirees until the pension system, which is only about 50% funded, reaches a more healthy state.

Ms. Raimondo is a Democrat, former venture capitalist, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and has a bachelor's in economics from Harvard and law degree from Yale.

"A government that doesn't work is in no one's interest," she says. "Budgets that don't balance, public programs that aren't funded, pension funds that are running out of money, schools that aren't funded—How does that help anyone? I don't really care if you're a Republican or Democrat or you want to fight about the size of government. How about a government that just works? Put your tax dollar in and get a return out the other end."
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed pension reform into law in New York State over bitter opposition from public sector unions. This is in spite of the reforms being relatively modest:
- changes only apply to new hires
- retirement age raised to 63 from 62
- workers now have to contribute 3-6% of their salaries
From last week's Boston Herald:

"... it’s the latest scam involving untold armies of Massachusetts municipal employees: teachers, school bus drivers, volunteer firefighters, cops... we know they get generous retirement pensions plus very generous health care. But now, incredibly — hard to fathom even here in public corruption ground zero — they get unemployment, too."

(Margery Eagan asked Attorney General Martha Coakley about this on WTKK 96.9 radio last week and she agreed it was something that should be looked into)

From today's New York Daily News: Governor Andrew Cuomo has told state lawmakers pension reform is his highest priority and he is willing to let the government shut down if they don't pass it.

"The reforms are projected to save the state and local governments $113 billion over 30 years, including $30 billion in savings for the city.  “The current pension system is great for the people who are in it, and it is an abject failure for the taxpayers of this state,” Cuomo said."

Mass. is not the only blue state making changes to its pension system - Rhode Island went further than Mass. by making changes that affect current retirees, not just future ones like Mass. did.

The situation was pretty dire though: "Many states are wrestling with rising pension costs, but Rhode Island's situation is among the worst in the nation. According to research from the Pew Center on the States, Rhode Island is one of only two states to have less than 50 percent of the funding needed to cover benefits that public sector employees have already accrued."

The legislation suspends cost-of-living adjustments for those collecting state pensions and raise the retirement age for most employees. It also sets up a hybrid system for state employees and teachers, mixing a traditional pension with a retirement account similar to a 401k.  Read more here.

Last week the Massachusetts Legislature approved an overhaul of the state’s pension system that would raise the minimum retirement age for future state employees to 60.

The measure is expected to save over $5 billion over the next 30 years.

This is an huge step in the right direction for fiscal responsibility and not saddling the future generation with our debt.

Thank you Voters Count supporters for your calls and emails to legislators!
The Globe editorial on Tuesday on the proposal currently being debated in the legislature to reform the public pension system: "... lawmakers shouldn’t add to the state’s pension obligations for political reasons. When the House takes up the measure, it should cut out the pension enhancements - and go for the savings alone."

Read the whole editorial here.

And if you want to stop pension abuse, sign up here in order to receive our Action Alert on this issue!

This twelve minute segment of Emily Rooney's show covered the topic of public sector unions and how poll numbers show public opinion has turned against them. Her guests are Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini and Northeastern University dean of public policy Barry Bluestone.

Mayor Fiorentini hired private investigators to expose sick time abuse among his employees.

Mayor Fiorentini on the need for municipal health care reform: "A five dollar co-pay means that someone is losing their job, it means we provide less services for people in the community, and people’s taxes are higher than they need to be."

Barry Bluestone calls for "interest-based bargaining" with municipal unions rather than each side starting out with their demands.

(Emily Rooney says she thinks the public is most upset about the sick-time abuses rather than pensions, but I disagree with her on that - I think taxpayers see themselves subsidizing others to have a secure retirement that they themselves will not have)

It's a terrific segment, definitely worth the twelve minutes.
Ok this is pretty big news... Governor Deval Patrick and legislative leaders are calling for a big change in pension benefits for state workers: "Virtually all future state employees would work five years longer, contribute more to their pensions, and would no longer receive incentives to retire early under a bill Governor Deval Patrick and legislative leaders announced today." Read the whole article here

This plan does maintain a public pension system, which means public sector workers will continue to have a more stable retirement than other workers, in that their pension benefits are not subject to the whims of the stock market. But this plan is fairer in terms of the age of retirement and in terms of requiring workers to fund more of their own retirement. And it is also more affordable for the taxpayer, which means more funds are available for current government services that we all rely upon.

If you agree that this plan is a good one, tell the governor! Here is how to contact him. And also tell your state senator and state rep - here is how to contact them.