Editorial: We cannot afford decades more of pension abuse

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

The public pension horror stories we’ve been inundated with recently will continue for decades unless proposed reforms are written so that they apply to current employees and elected officials.

Having recently been told by state legislative leaders that we may be facing the worst fiscal crisis in Massachusetts history – with years of financial woes to come – it is imperative the Legislature not allow these pension injustices to linger.

A six-member legislative conference committee begins meeting today in an effort to reconcile House and Senate bills on pension abuse.

The bills in conference hit many of the most egregious loopholes. They would prohibit public employees from claiming a year of service for working a single day in a calendar year, from claiming credit for working in unpaid public positions and from collecting dual pensions from more than one public retirement system.

Elected officials would also no longer be able to claim increased “termination” benefits for failing to win re-election and public employees filling in for supervisors would be prohibited from claiming a higher rate of disability compensation if they are injured.

The central difference between the two bills is that the House version applies only to new hires while the Senate’s would also close loopholes for current employees.

Officials overseeing the retirement system say it supports 56,000 retirees and contains 86,000 actively contributing employees.

We don’t even want to think of how many of those 86,000 contributors will attempt to use existing loopholes to squeeze the taxpayer for more than they deserve.

Those opposed to applying reform to current employees have said it would likely be challenged in court.

But this is a fight worth fighting whether in the legislative chambers or before a judge.

We agree with Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington), who said he’d prefer closing the loopholes for current and future employees “to send a very clear signal” to the public about reform.

We recognize the legal implications of changing the rules for those already in the system.

But what’s been allowed to happen is wrong and worth fighting on all fronts.

The conference committee meeting begins at noon in Room 212 of the State House. Meetings of legislative conference committees are open unless the committees vote to close them.

The Patriot Ledger