Don’t blame the unions … blame the lawmakers in Harrisburg

Letter by David W. P. Jones, Daily Local News, 7/11/14

Mr. Thomas Haas … you stated that you were taught “if we make a mistake, to correct it.” Well, you made a few mistakes in your article.

First and foremost, taxpayers have no claim to the private payments and accounts made by teachers. This is not taxpayers’ money, this is the money workers paid from their wages and it belongs. Second, your taxes are not going up “just” because of the pensions. Other issues, like construction, special education, medical benefits and for-profit private school payments are also contributing to the escalation. Next, if the solution were as simple as you suggest it would have been done by now, but one of the things you overlook … which is extremely important … is that the legislators are part of this same system. So, the difficulty is not getting legislators to vote to change employees benefits, but rather, that they must change their own benefits at the same time.

You referred to pensions in the private sector that had to be modified because they were “overly generous.” The private sector pensions were not overly generous, they were underfunded in the exact same way the public sector pensions have been underfunded. In the private sector many companies simply shifted to pay profits before they paid their obligations and then claimed they didn’t have enough funds left to pay their obligations. Many of these pension systems went bankrupt and then the taxpayers had to bail them out with the federally funded pension insurance.

You also blame the “generous formula” the unions pushed for as part of the problem. Well, that generous recalculation in 2002 under the Ridge administration was part of the problem, but it was not generated by the unions, it was pushed by the Legislature and the administration. Just to be clear, while the employees did get a generous recalculation of 25 percent, the legislators actually doubled that to 50 percent for themselves. So don’t blame that one on the unions, please….

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