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Letters to the Editor

Cut fat teacher pensions

| Monday, Aug. 11, 2003

The governor and the Legislature have slashed human services and cut mass transit funds. These actions hurt many people. In May 2001, legislators slipped through a 50 percent increase in their pensions and gave a 25 percent increase in pensions to all teachers and state employees. With the current budget concerns, it would seem we could get a more equitable distribution of state revenues.

We have the third-highest paid teachers in the nation, which ranks them first in purchasing power, considering cost of living. It is difficult to justify any increase, let alone a 25 percent increase, in pensions in addition to the high salaries. The 2001 increase was a gift and not a contractual settlement with the union.

It is time the governor and Legislature correct this gross error in judgment. Take back the increase for future retirees from both the Legislature and teachers and state employees. Use the funds to reduce taxes, provide human services to the thousands cut off and reverse state tuition increases.

Teachers now receive 2 1/2 percent for each year worked, or 100 percent pay as a pension after 40 years. Or try 75 percent after just 30 years. Compare that with the private sector, where 50 percent is closer to the norm. With 234,000 teachers and 109,000 state employees, an average $10,000 increase in pension per person costs the taxpayers a whopping $3.43 billion -- yes, billion -- each year when fully funded.

The state funds part of the increase with our taxes, and each school district funds part, which can and will raise property taxes. The cost of the budget shortfalls we read in the Trib are picayune in comparison to this annual increased cost of pensions. Take back this $3.43 billion bundle of taxes for better use.

Education budgets, with high salaries and pensions, are already receiving more than their share of our taxes. Let the governor and your legislator know you are aware of their grossly unfair taxation and distribution of revenues. If they don't hear you, shout a little louder in the voting booth.

David R. Christie
McCandless

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