Michigan lawmaker tells fmr. lawmakers to get off "the gravy train"

(Photo: SBG File)

LANSING, Mich. (SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP) --- If you work for city government, you may be wondering if your retirement benefits will be there when you need them.

Right now, reform advocates say many Michigan cities and towns promised retiree benefits they cannot afford.

So far this legislative session, we haven't seen a widely supported plan to address unfunded liabilities.

While a plan is being crafted, one lawmaker says the House should act on his bill that takes aim at lawmaker retiree benefits.

Several hundred retired lawmakers are mad at Republican Joe Bellino.

"I've got a few hundred legislators mad at me because I think they should be part of our shared sacrifice," he said.

Bellino says former lawmakers need to get off the "gravy train," so he's introducing legislation that would require retired lawmakers to pay 20% of their healthcare costs.

"A lot of legislators in the past of the pre 2000 era are not paying a dime for their healthcare," the Monroe Republican said.

Bellino says it's costing the state $1.7-2.8 million.

"To me that's a lot of money," he said.

Bellino's bill comes at a time when many Michigan cities face massive unfunded liabilities when it comes to retirement benefits to city workers.

It's a problem Gov. Rick Snyder is asking a task force to handle.

"We have approximately $27 billion in unfunded liabilities right now," said Sen. Rick Jones in December.

"Unfunded liabilities is a Republican word to say screw over the people that have worked hard for a living," Sen. Jim Ananich said during lameduck.

Democrat Jim Ananich remains concerned about the GOP efforts.

"Unfunded liabilities have happened because of the programs these guys have put in place. When I got elected in 2010, the retirement system was in good shape," he added.

The debate on what to do to fully fund public employee pensions is ongoing.

But before lawmakers tackle that issue, Bellino says it's important to do house cleaning at the state level.

"It makes common sense that we are paying 20% when we ask our teachers, our fireman, our first responders, our policemen, our Ford workers, our GM workers, we're paying more of our insurance than these people who pay nothing or 10%. That's unheard of in a private sector," said Bellino.

Lawmakers looked seriously at tackling unfunded liabilities late last year, but they backed off when city workers inundated lawmakers with their concerns.

We'll let you know when a plan is introduced this session.

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