Senate Bill 628, State Health and Retirement Benefits – Public Employees and Retirees, was heard jointly yesterday with SB 87, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2011. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee heard the bills jointly because both include sweeping changes to State retiree health benefits and the Employees’ and Teachers’ Pension Systems. MACo First Vice President and Prince George’s Council Member Ingrid Turner and MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified before the Committee on both bills.
SB 628, seeks to implement the recommendations of the Public Employees’ and Retirees’ Benefit Sustainability Commission. Among many other changes, the bill begins a three-year shift of massive teacher retirement costs to local employers. MACo encouraged the Committee to consider and implement significant measures to improve the sustainability of the pension system. Many of the elements considered by the Commission, and included in SB 628 as introduced, would make strides in that direction. However, despite incomplete efforts to achieve sustainability, the Commission concluded that a simple shift of costs was suitable State policy. MACo believes that a proposal that includes a shift in pension costs represents an upending of established priorities, and an inappropriate undermining of the State and county commitment to excellent schools and opposed SB 628 for these reason.
MACo also included its recently adopted pension reform statement as a part of its testimony.