County Reactions to Pension Shift Emerge

As the news of the Governor’s proposed shift of teacher pension costs spreads, several county officials have offered comments and views on the proposed shift. From the Gazette’s Friday politics section come these comments from county leaders, first from Montgomery County:

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett on Thursday continued to call Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to shift half the cost of teacher pensions onto counties a non-starter.

Leggett is not appeased by the governor’s proposal to offset some of the counties’ costs by adjusting income tax rates for high earners.

Although Montgomery County has a large number of high-income earners relative to the rest of the state, Leggett said the long-term impact of a pension shift is troubling.

“I don’t see anything thus far that would make me change my position [on] it,” Leggett (D) said. “There are speculative things that have been suggested that supposedly would give Montgomery County a benefit … If it’s such a benefit, why am I still asking for the status quo?”

and from Prince George’s County:

In Prince George’s County, where the numbers from the governor’s office suggest the county could break even in the first year, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) also said the long-term costs are not manageable.

“We can’t sustain it,” Baker said. “I’ve said that to our delegation, we simply cannot afford it.”

Prince George’s is facing a $126 million budget deficit, and the shifted pension costs would add about $34 million more, said Thomas Himler, Baker’s deputy chief administrative officer for budget, finance and administration.

In the Baltimore Sun, Worcester County Superintendent of Schools Jon Andes rebuts a recent Sun editorial praising the proposed shift, observing:

The potential transfer of teacher pension costs will punish school systems across the state but especially those school systems like ours which have reduced class size and provided the number of special education teachers and services needed to provide high-quality educational services for all students. If the teacher pension costs are transferred to our local government and passed on to our school system, the quality of our top-performing educational program will be severely challenged like never before.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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