Teacher Pension shift – back from the dead?

At the outset of this legislative session, the longstanding worry about a shift in teacher pensions was largely put to rest as “off the table” for this year. See this Conduit Street posting from January.

Even when legislation was introduced again by Senate president Mike Miller, most took that as just a “reminder” of the issue’s presence — not a true indication that a major fund-shifting plan was truly afoot in this election year.

However, as the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee enters its public “decision” meetings this week, their working documents refer back to a recommendation made in one of the Department of Legislative Services’ analysis for State Aid to Education, where they suggest (on page 26):

The Department of Legislative Services recommends that general funds for Aid to Education formula increases be reduced by $60 million, either by reducing the State’s contribution to teachers’ retirement or eliminating the minimum per pupil floors in at-risk formulas. This reduction would require action in the BRFA.

When this item was raised for discussion this afternoon by the B&T Subcommittee on Health, Education, and Human Services… it was “held.” This likely reflects that the issue will be taken up in the full committee decision meeting set for Thursday. All signs point to some incremental movement on this issue being at least “on the table” as the Senate assembles its plan not only for FY 2011, but for the years beyond.

Counties have long worried that even a modest, incremental shift in responsibility for teacher pensions will likely lead to this source becoming an ongoing solution to State budget woes, in ever-increasing amounts.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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