Teacher Pensions on your mind? Take time out for a read…

If, like many in the county community, one of your biggest fears is that the State may be driven by the tough economy to push some or all of the funding responsibility for teacher retirement to the county level –take some time to get “caught up” on both the policy and politics of this issue in this multi-part series from Adam Pagnucco at Maryland Politics Watch. Adam writes from a Montgomery County perspective, but if you’re concerned about this issue, there’s a lot to connect to no matter what part of the State you’re from.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

HB 10, Delegate Manno’s bill to address pensions and related fiscal issues (raising new revenues to support a Teacher Pension Sustainability and Solvency Trust Fund), is the first among possibly many salvos on this topic.

At the General Assembly Forecast during MACo’s Winter Conference, House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch referred to the teacher pension issue as “off the table” for this year’s session — in part referencing the use of federal funds to support these (and other) State obligations.

Today’s Baltimore Sun offers a view of several looming fiscal issues, and covers teacher pensions as follows:

•Teacher pensions: Maryland presently shoulders the cost for teacher pensions in each county but doesn’t set the salaries which form the basis of pension costs.

Gallagher, O’Malley’s chief of staff, says next year’s budget will fully fund teacher pensions and the counties won’t be asked to chip in.

But among lawmakers, the question is when, not if, counties will have to pitch in. The change will put a further strain on local governments, which might have to raise their own taxes or fees to cover the cost.

The state will have to put more than $900 million toward teacher pensions this year, according to projections from the Department of Legislative Services.

“We would like to pay for the pensions this time,” said Del. Sheila Hixson, a Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the Ways and Means Committee. “It may have to be looked at in the future.”

And, on that issue, there might be some bipartisan consensus. Sen. David Brinkley, a Western Maryland Republican, said local governments “should have to kick in some money” to teacher retirement plans.

With this ongoing discussion, county officials continue to watch this massive fiscal issue, as any move toward a transfer of responsibilities could dramatically upend the State/local fiscal relationship going forward.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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