Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Three pro-public Ohio pension letters in today's Toledo Blade...

From John Curry, January 19, 2010
Toledo Blade, January 19, 2010
Pensions a good deal for Ohio
The Blade's Jan. 10 editorial "Curb pension costs" didn't increase awareness of the challenges facing Ohio's public employee pension system.
First, unlike workers in the private sector, the majority of Ohio public employees will never receive Social Security benefits.
Second, contrary to your claims, eliminating "defined benefit" plans in favor of 401(k)-style "defined contribution" plans carries a higher price tag than leaving benefits as they are. After all, 401(k)s were intended to supplement pension plans, not replace them.
Third, your editorial's basic premise, that maintaining the current pension system will require "ruinous tax hikes," doesn't hold water. The reality is that government kicks in only 25 cents for every dollar paid in benefits to a retired public worker. The rest is funded by investment returns and by employees.
Today, for every dollar in benefits paid, Ohio's public pension system returns $1.33 to the state economy. Each year, retired public employees spend $8.4 billion in Ohio.
True, Ohio's public pension system needs to be reformed. In the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, we are willing to do our part. However, that can only begin when we recognize that a strong pension system providing decent benefits isn't part of the problem; it's part of the solution.
John A. Lyall
President, AFSCME Ohio Council 8, AFL-CIO
Columbus Public workers unfairly punished
Public retirees must pay Ohio income tax on their pensions, while 24 other states offer exemptions or do not tax public pensions.
In Ohio, Social Security, military, and railroad pensions are exempt from state income tax, while federal, police, fire, school and municipal retirees and all other public pension recipients must pay state income tax on their pension or annuity. This is on top of the loss of earned Social Security benefits, simply because we earn a public pension. Private pensioners are not penalized in this way.
For several years the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association has had legislation introduced in the Ohio legislature asking for fair, equitable treatment of public pensions. It has gone nowhere. Ohio is seeing public pensioners leave for friendlier states.
Many who are being penalized are widows, widowers, and survivors; 77 percent of them are women, and many are forced into poverty. There is more to this issue than meets the eye.
David Forgatsch
OPERS backs pension changes
Retirement security should be the goal for everyone. This means being able to plan for retirement and not outlive one's savings. The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System's pension plan is sustainable, is less costly than the 401(k) model, and provides retirement security to our members. We support this for all Ohioans.
OPERS' long-standing commitment of accountability is reflected in the fact that OPERS operates within the statutorily required 30-year time frame for meeting our future financial obligations.
The OPERS board has sent recommendations to the General Assembly to change the pension benefit plan in a way that will continue to ensure the strength of our system and to stay within the statutorily required time frame, without increasing employer contribution.
In addition, health care is a vital part of a meaningful retirement and our board is committed to providing quality health-care coverage for as long as possible.
Chris DeRose
Chief Executive Officer
Ohio Public Employees Retirement System
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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