Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Coalition fights to save state pensions

Rep. James Armes (D-Leesville) says Gov. Jindal's retirement system changes threaten the state's middle class.
At a capitol press conference Monday, a coalition of firefighters, teachers, law enforcement personnel, AARP retirees, local leaders, state budget experts, and others exposed and rejected Governor Jindal’s pension-slashing scheme on middle class Louisiana workers.

Governor Jindal is trying to force through the legislature one of the most extreme overhauls of a state-run pension system anywhere in the nation, without the benefit of a transparent and open debate.

Shrouded in secrecy, Jindal’s pension slashing scheme, includes a so-called “cash balance plan” that turns pensions over to Wall Street. According to an actuarial note prepared by the Actuarial Services Department of the Office of the Legislative Auditor, the proposed cash balance plan would likely cost more than the current defined benefit plan. The report goes on to note, “Because there is no Social Security coverage [for state workers], such a member may very well become a ward of the state because he or she has no other available resources.”
Rep. James K. Armes (District 30) said: “The public deserves openness and transparency from their government especially when it comes to their retirement security. Unfortunately, Governor Jindal insists on secrecy. Even worse, his plan punishes Louisiana’s middle class workers by handing over their pensions to greedy Wall Street insiders who crashed our economy in the first place.”

Kerri Everitt, Advocacy Director for AARP said: “The Governor’s ‘cash balance plan,’ is particularly bad for retirees because state employees do not get Social Security. The plan will cost the state money and leave retirees in poverty. Instead of punishing working people and our seniors we should be making big corporations and Wall Street pay their fair share.”

Jan Moller, Director for Louisiana Budget Project said: “The cash balance plan is a lose-lose for Louisiana. It’s bad for taxpayers and bad for state employees. It’s especially risky for state employees, who do not receive Social Security and whose families would be vulnerable if they die or become disabled before they retire.”

Stacy Birdwell, Professional Fire fighters Association of Louisiana: “Firefighters don’t become firefighters to get rich. But we at least expect there to be a decent and guaranteed retirement at the end of a lifetime of hard work. We stand with our fellow state workers and demand politicians stop trying to turn our retirement security over to Wall Street.

Brenda G Matthews, qualified teacher aide, East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers: “It’s shameful when politicians show such disrespect to the people who work every day to make the next generation of this state better and smarter. This plan is immoral and does not represent Louisiana values it represents Wall Street values. We must stop trying to sell the state and its people off to Wall Street and start making Wall Street and the richest one percent pay their fair share.

According to a new study from the Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System, based on the decisions they make, a worker who has already worked 10 years and plans to retire at age 55 with 28 years of service would have their pension slashed by $18,500 per year. Alternatively, someone currently with 20 years under their belt and plans to retire at age 55 with 25 years of service would see their pension chopped by $6000 per year.

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