Inside Opinion

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Tag: pensions

June
6th

Public unions meet their ultimate employers: Voters

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Public employees – including those who work for the City of Tacoma and Pierce Transit – should be contemplating the implications of Wednesday’s elections in Wisconsin and California.

One lesson seems obvious: Given a choice between funding vital public services and funding union benefits that often far surpass the average worker’s, voters will take the services.

Even Democratic voters. Wisconsinites – who on Wednesday effectively endorsed severe restrictions on their state’s public unions – haven’t turned into gangs of company goons. Many citizens cast ballots in defense of their “union-busting” governor, Scott Walker, then turned around and told pollsters they preferred Barack Obama to Mitt Romney.

Some of Walker’s opponents have attributed the failure of the recall campaign to the governor’s vast advantage in fund-raising.

Still, they’re the ones who staged the debacle in the first place; they wouldn’t have been outspent if they hadn’t tried to unseat Walker a year into his first term.

More to the point, there can’t have been many Wisconsin voters who couldn’t figure out where the battle lines were drawn, however much money got spent. A vote for Walker was a vote to rein in public unions; a vote for his opponent was a vote for the old status quo.

A key word here is PUBLIC. Public sector unions and private sector unions are very different animals in some ways.

In the private sector, collective bargaining pits labor against management. At the table, union negotiators face people who will lose their jobs if they give away the store. Union leaders also know that the market imposes limits: A company goes bust – and payrolls evaporate – if its profits get squeezed too hard.

That discipline doesn’t exist in the public sector. Government unions work ferociously to hire their own bosses – the elected officials who control the management side of collective bargaining.
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March
20th

Lawmakers must ensure state pension sustainability

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

All over the country, pension systems for public workers are in trouble. Many are woefully underfunded. Nationally the deficit was $1 trillion at the end of 2008, and it’s been widening since as baby boom workers retired in growing numbers and the recession battered investment funds.

Washington is in better shape than most states. As of 2008, according to the Pew Center on the States, it was one of only four states whose pension systems were fully funded.

But, according to Pew, “Washington needs to improve how it manages its long-term liabilities for both pensions and retiree health care and other benefits. The state has failed to meet its actuarially required contributions since 2001.”
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March
2nd

Bill for public pensions quickly coming due

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s edition.

Round about the time that state legislatures hope to emerge from their recession-fueled budget crises, another wallet-socking wallop could await them.

That’s the conclusion of a recent study by the Pew Center on the States, which has been issuing increasingly urgent warnings over the last couple of years about the long-term costs of public sector retirement benefits.

In 2007, the center estimated that states had committed to collectively spend $2.73 trillion on pensions, heath care and other retirement benefits over the next 30 years.

Now the center is back to warn that the liability has grown to $3.35 trillion – and that states are falling far short of socking away enough money to meet their obligations.

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