Michigan lawmakers compromise to pass pension reform bill
LANSING, Mich. (SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP) —
First responders are celebrating a victory on Thursday after giving state lawmakers an earful about their plan to reform retirement benefits.
The original plan was designed to reign in unfunded liabilities, but it didn't have the votes in the house, so lawmakers passed a scaled back version early Thursday morning.
Political Reporter Nick Minock reported from capitol to break down what got done and what's next.
The Michigan House and Senate passed some of the retirement reforms on Thursday, but it wasn't easy because they didn't have the votes for the original bills.
Republicans took out the most controversial part and after a marathon of voting, Michigan lawmakers didn't leave the capitol until 3:30 a.m. Thursday.
Lee Chatfield and other lawmakers were considering a plan that would have allowed the state to adjust local government budgets, but lawmakers scraped that controversial idea.
Chatfield said, "What we focused on is early reporting on these municipalities and extra transparency to ensure police and fire get the benefits that they were promised."
Hundreds of first responders pushed back against the original plan.
Tom Chochran said, "It literally could have taken benefits away from current retirees."
Chochran voted for the revised plan that would require local government to thoroughly report financial information including funding of pension and retiree health care plans so the state could evaluate which plans are underfunded.
Chris Hackbarth, Director, State & Federal Affairs fir the Michigan Municipal League, said, "It's a missed opportunity."
The Michigan Municipal League says more needed to be done.
Hackbarth said, "We are disappointed, but it just means we need to continue to keep working. And continue pushing for some real reform opportunities with to help communities with the situation they are facing. ."
The League and Cochran agree the state needs to give more financial assistance to cities, which was something promised long ago.
Cochran said, "They've not received the proper funding from the state. I think that's a huge part of why we are here today."
Increased revenue sharing is something that's still on the table according to Speaker Pro-Temp Chatfield.
Chatfield said, "It's definitely part of the conversation and it's going to continue to be moving forward."
The effort to fix unfunded liabilities began when a state task force found $7.5 billion unfunded pension liabilities and $10 billion in unfunded healthcare liabilities lurking in local governments in Michigan.