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Lawmakers look at public employee benefits

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LANSING, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Lawmakers are acting quickly to get reforms passed before the end of the year. Republicans say the state just can’t sustain the lucrative benefits it once promised public employees.

Michigan House Speaker Kevin Cotter says Michigan cities promised retiree health care benefits they can't afford.

He says public employee health care benefits created an unfunded liability of $11 billion .

To fix the problem, some House Republicans are looking at doing three big things.

- Make public employees contribute 20% for retirement health benefits if their local government is struggling financially.

- Protect the retirement benefits that current retirees enjoy.

- Allow cities to contribute into a health savings account, capped at 2% of employee's pay.

Democratic Sen. Jim Ananich calls Republican efforts inhumane and wrong.

"Unfunded liabilities is just a Republican word to say "screw over the people that have worked hard for a living," he said.

Republican State Rep. Peter Lucido says concerned public servants are inundating his office with phone calls asking the state not go back on its promise.

He says he has their backs.

Tonight, he's calling for accountability of the people who negotiated the benefits.

"I want to know did they make these deals knowing that that money wasn't going to be there and if that's the case then I need to have some accountability for what these people did because you can't give them something that they knew some day wasn't going to be available," he said.

While the State House looks at health care benefit reforms for police officers and fire fighters, the State Senate is looking at reforming teacher benefits.

Republican Sen. Rick Jones says Senators are looking at moving new school employees into a 401k style plan.

He says the current system is in the red.

"It's $27 billion - with a "b" - in the red, so Senators are searching for a way to make sure it's there for the teachers who are working now and the teachers who are already retired," he said.

Lucido said if lawmakers do nothing, then the state will go under.

This story will pick up on Tuesday. That's when hundreds of firefighters and police officers are expected to make their voices heard in Lansing.

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