State Pensions on the Minds of Many

In an opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun, MACo President and Harford County Executive David Craig discusses the causes behind the unfunded State pension obligations and explains why shifting the burden to the counties does not solve the problem.

Such suggestions not only fail to address the major issues confronting the pension system (and the taxpayers who help fund it), but they conveniently forget that the state played a major role in increasing payrolls. One of the stated goals of funding the Thornton Commission recommendations was to help local boards attract and retain teachers. While the fiscal note acknowledged its potential effect on payrolls, it did not quantify its impact on pension costs. Those who voted for it should not be allowed to forget that omission.

The state needs to take ownership of the fact that the bulk of the problems in the pension system stem largely from political problems and mismanagement. Having a fully funded pension system is not an unattainable goal. As recently as 2000, it was funded at 101 percent. But its success helped lead it to potential failure.

MACo’s incoming president, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has also shared his views on a teacher pension shift to the counties in the Baltimore Sun’s Political Notebook.

“We’re going to be down there working hard to make the case that there should not be a pension shift. We already pick up Social Security,” Ulman said. State officials argue that counties set teacher salaries that determine their pensions, so it’s not fair for the state to foot the whole bill, but Ulman tried to deflect that by pointing out that the elected school board sets the salaries, not the county executive. In any case, “I don’t think that [the shift] is a foregone conclusion,” he said.

More coverage of State pensions can be found in an article in the Herald Mail, which summarizes discussions between local board of education officials and state lawmakers, and an article in the Capital, which summarizes comments from the November 15 public hearing of the Public Employees’ and Retirees’ Benefit Sustainability Commission.

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