Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beacon Journal letter to editor - 'It is not fair to even suggest that taxpayers are being cheated'

From John Curry, January 13, 2010
Akron Beacon Journal, January 13, 2010
Public employees pay for pensions
The front-page articles on Jan. 3 about the state employee retirement systems (''Pensions facing scrutiny'') were an attempt to create negative attitudes about public employees. To say that a Sears retiree is ''footing the bill'' for my State Teachers Retirement System income with his taxes is like me claiming that I paid for his Social Security by shopping at Sears.
Of course, some of the money I spent at Sears paid his salary, part of which went to Social Security, just as his tax money pays for bits of the incomes of police officers, firefighters, teachers and city workers, part of which goes to their retirement.
Private sector employees pay 6.2 percent of their salary into Social Security, and their employers match that. People paying into the Social Security system believe their employers' contributions are part of the income that they earned by doing their jobs. Public employees feel the same way about employer contributions.
Public employee retirement systems are fully and completely funded by employee and employer contributions.
So why is the Beacon Journal subjecting public employer contributions for scrutiny? To create controversy?
In the 1990s, the State Teachers Retirement System increased contributions from 21.25 percent to 24 percent.
Teacher contributions went from 9.25 percent to 10 percent, and school board contributions increased from 12 percent to 14 percent.
There was no public outcry. Teachers had smaller paychecks and received smaller annual raises. Nobody hit the panic button.
The controversy seems to come from the belief that the state pension funds provide ''Cadillac'' retirements. This ignores the fact that public employees are required by state law to pay up to 12 percent more of their incomes (24 percent versus 12.4 percent) into these pension funds.
To do this, we received less take-home pay compared to people with similar incomes working for private businesses.
Anyone who puts an extra 10 percent of his or her income into growth investments for 35 years should be able to retire comfortably, and maybe early. Few people do. I might not have, either, had I been given the choice.
The proposed changes in the public retirement systems mostly mean that public employees will have smaller paychecks and smaller raises while working more years until they retire to get less money and pay more for health insurance. That is not quite a tax the articles want readers to believe.
It is fair to report on the problems of the public employee retirement systems and the proposed remedies. It is not fair to even suggest that taxpayers are somehow being cheated.
Thomas A. Shubert
Munroe Falls
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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