Union Lobbyists Not Interested in Solving Pension Crisis

My latest letter to the editor in the Phoenix Reporter and Item corrects the record, noting that government union leaders have for years denied a pension crisis, supported underfunded pensions for teachers and state workers, and lobbied against any reform.

To the editor:

A recent letter from Jay Galambos (June 3) makes the absurd claim that the Commonwealth Foundation and “right wing lobbyists” created the state pension crisis by supporting reduced payments into pension plans.

Unfortunately, he has his history completely backwards. Public employee union lobbyists — not the Commonwealth Foundation — supported Act 9 of 2001, which increases pension benefits and artificially reduced payments. Those same union lobbyists endorsed Act 40 of 2003 and Act 120 of 2010, which “kicked the can down the road” by continuing to underfund the plans.

In contrast, the Commonwealth Foundation fought all of these proposals and has long touted the need for reform. Yet government union leaders, from both the PSEA and AFSCME, denied there was a crisis coming until it was too late.

That crisis is now here, with tax hikes and teacher layoffs a result of postponing tough decisions. Neither revisionist history nor the continued “do nothing” position of the PSEA will solve that. Rather, lawmakers should look to reform the system with retirement benefits that are affordable for taxpayers and predictable for employees.

Most importantly, such pension reform, similar to a 401(k) plan, couldn’t be deliberately underfunded for short-term political gain, leaving our children to pay the cost.