This week, the State Senate (26-10) adopted meaningful reforms to the public pension system, approving modest changes supported by Gov. Patrick and Treasurer Grossman. Unfortunately, my State Senator, Jamie Eldridge, voted against the bill, thereby proving the old adage that “Business as usual” is alive and well for some defenders of the status quo.
Among the common sense changes in Sen. Katherine Clark’s legislation is to raise the retirement age for most state workers from 55 to 60, and re-calculate pension payouts, based on a 5 year average of base pay rather than an individual’s last 3 years of salary working for the Commonwealth. The bill also increases early retirement penalties, similar to those in the private sector who cash in an IRA early, or seniors who choose to accept Social Security payments at age 62 instead of receiving their full benefit at age 65.
These modest reforms only apply to future state retirees making Eldridge’s “nay” vote mystifying and fiscally irresponsible.
The pension reform bill provides a reasonable yet critical step in reining in unsustainable pension costs for the state and municipalities in Massachusetts, while still providing a level of guaranteed retirement benefits that are largely a thing of the past for most of the Commonwealth’s citizens still lucky enough to have a job in the private sector during the Great Recession. Considering our state pension system is in crisis – with upwards of 20 billion dollars worth of unfunded liabilities saddled on the back’s of our kids, I support the bipartisan proposal and urge the House to follow the Senate’s lead.
Jamie Eldridge fails to understand that unless the Legislature tackle meaningful pension reform, the opportunity costs and ability to invest in local and state spending on public education is severely compromised. Faced with that proposition, I choose reform over political pandering.
Dean Cavaretta, Stow, MA