MACo President and Harford County Executive, David R. Craig, St. Mary’s County budget officer Elaine Kramer, Carroll County budget officer Ted Zaleski, and MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified on November 15 before the Public Employees’ and Retirees’ Benefit Sustainability Commission to share the counties’ perspective on State pension issues. MACo’s testimony addressed the following: teacher salaries and who sets them, county school board relations, costs drivers of the retirement system, and county finances.
As reported by MarylandReporter.com, many other organizations also attended the public hearing to share their perspectives on state pensions and employee and retiree health benefits.
Retirees, current state employees and union representatives told members of the Public Employees’ and Retirees’ Benefits Sustainability Commission that financial problems with the pension system are not their fault, and they should not bear the brunt of any changes.
Most of the testifiers were adamantly opposed to making any change to benefits.
“I think your daunting task is telling the General Assembly, ‘You caused the problem, you have to fix it,’” said Maryland Association of Counties President David Craig, who is also Harford County Executive.
Patrick Moran, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said that the “meager” benefits paid to employees were not to blame for the current pension crisis.
Many educators’ groups spoke out about one of their worst fears: shifting the government’s portion of funding for teacher pensions from the state, which pays it now, to local and county government.
Craig from MACo said that the state created the higher costs for education through bills passed by the General Assembly. Counties had nothing to do with it, and it is not fair to shift the burden to them, especially since counties also are running tight budgets. Moreover, he said,counties don’t have any authority over salaries and staffing for school districts, since those items are in the purview of local boards of education.
Tish Raff, a legislative aide and member of the Maryland Retired School Personnel Association, said that any shift would create a “tremendous and undue burden on the counties.”
The Benefit Sustainability Commission will meet again on November 29.