In a terrific piece in McClatchy by Kevin G. Hall, state pension systems are neither broke nor bankrupting state treasuries. On average, pension contributions amount to just 2.9% of state expenditures (while Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research pegs the figure at a higher, 3.8% rate). The article also does well to locate the proper term for some pension funds’ problems by correctly characterizing their condition as “underfunded” and not the more dramatic, drastic, emotional, and inaccurate “broke.”
A point worth considering in this blatant attack on workers’ rights and economic stability: if unionized workers and their allegedly exceedingly generous pay and benefits packages are problematic for state budgets, and denying them collective bargaining rights on most issues and forcing workers to contribute more to their own benefits will allegedly help solve state budget problems, then why would Governor Walker exempt two of the most heavily unionized segments of state workers–police officers and fire fighters–from these provisions? This of course is not an argument for denying them or anyone collective bargaining rights, but rather to illustrate the sheer incongruity of Walker’s provisions for, as Hall writes well,
Ironically, in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker is trying to weaken public-sector unions and reduce pension benefits, he’s exempted police and firefighters, who are among the most unionized public employees. And Wisconsin’s public-sector pension plan still has enough assets today to cover more than 18 years of benefits.
Check out Hall’s good piece, another worthwhile primer into the blatant attacks on workers’ rights and the political biases fueling them.