A Bad (Non) Start for Pension Reform

The 2021 legislative session started out looking good for state pension reform. The Treasurer and Speaker of the House were talking loudly that fixes had to be made to the teachers’ and municipal employees pension and benefits programs as their unfunded liabilities were racing toward the $6 billion mark. They put forward the outlines of a potential plan.

Then the politically powerful unions trashed the plan, which would have required them to shoulder some of the financial burden for repairing the system, and threatened any politician who dared indicate support. Democrats, who firmly control both chambers of the legislature and are the primary (or, nearly if not entirely the sole) beneficiaries of NEA and VSEA support, quickly caved.

The “punt” consisted of a study committee bill (H.449) to examine the issue in more depth, bring stakeholders to the table, yada, yada, yada. It contained the following language:

“The members appointed pursuant to subdivisions (b)(1)(A) and (B) of this section shall appoint a House and Senate member as co-chairs, who shall call the first meeting of the Task Force to occur on or before June 15, 2021.”

This writing is taking place on June 23rd. If you think you missed that June 15th meeting, don’t worry, you didn’t. It didn’t happen. If you want to call up the members of the Task Force to complain, you can’t. They haven’t been appointed yet.

Shocked? Don’t be. If the legislature hasn’t shown any interested in its legal obligation to fund the state pension funds for two decades, why would it care about its legal obligation to appoint the Task Force it created solely for the purpose of avoiding the problem for at least another year?

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 


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