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Patrick proposal would reshape public pensions

Posted January 19, 2011 11:11 AM

Nearly all future state and municipal employees would work five years longer, contribute more to their pensions, and have their benefits slashed if they retire early under a bill Governor Deval Patrick and legislative leaders unveiled yesterday.

Eighteen months after state leaders eliminated loopholes in the pension system, the new proposal would go beyond merely curbing abuses. It would, Patrick said, fundamentally change retirement benefits for thousands of future teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public workers, in an attempt to save $5 billion over the next 30 years.

(Related: Number of $100K pensioners rising.)

Many states, including Massachusetts, confront escalating pension costs, a major burden on their budgets. Massachusetts, which has a relatively stable pension system, is nonetheless facing $20 billion in unfunded costs that will eventually have to be absorbed by taxpayers.

Because most of the proposed changes would apply only to future hires, however, it would take decades for the state to realize major savings.

The proposal comes at a time of rising anger at public employee benefits, as workers in the private sector have seen their own benefits and wages cut in recent years. It could trigger a struggle on Beacon Hill because public employee unions have traditionally fought attempts to curtail their members’ benefits. Most unions, however, reacted cautiously yesterday.

Read the rest of Globe Staff Writer Michael Levenson's story here.

Search for local government salaries and pensions here.

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