Friday, March 25, 2011

Are State Workers' Pensions Fair Game?

The following is an editorial from the Jackson Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Sometimes, being politicians, our state elected leaders get too wrapped up in politics to see the real-life effects of their decisions.

Such is the case with the odd political turn toward treating the state's retired with disdain by underfunding their pensions.

Maybe it was the big brouhaha in Wisconsin that started this ugly line of reasoning that state workers are somehow big, fat targets for politicians.

In that state, the employee unions are more established than in Mississippi. Here, state workers have fewer protections and are among the most poorly paid in the nation.

Underpaid, overworked, taken for granted, often abused by the general public, always the last to be given raises in good times and the first to be cut in bad, Mississippi's state workers have traditionally had one thing to look forward to: a decent retirement.

Honestly, when did it become "fair game" to attack pensions, which represent a contract of the state with long-serving employees? Is a retired game warden or Highway Safety Patrol officer, a schoolteacher or road worker a "beast" to be starved? Is this how we thank people who have spent their productive lives helping teach our children to read, or paving our roads in the blistering summer sun, or putting their lives on the line on lonely stretches of highway late at night?

The state made a promise to provide an established set of retirement benefits. The state cannot renege on that promise. The pension system cannot be a target for cuts if those cuts undermine its fiscal integrity. That is just basic, conservative fiscal policy.

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