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Task force offers plan to tackle local retirement costs

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A task force appointed by Governor Rick Snyder says state-appointed experts should review the retirement plans of local governments in Michigan.

The task force was looking for ways to help cities, townships, and counties manage their pension and retiree healthcare obligations.

Retired businessman David Breen co-chaired the task force. He says current taxpayers are paying for promises made a long time ago to public employees, and the costs of those promises are growing.

“The governments are unable to pay those obligations and provide the kinds of services that our taxpayers expect.”

He says it could reach a point in many communities where they become unaffordable.

“Either our great employees in these communities will not have what they’ve been promised when they retire, or our citizens won’t have roads, and services, and police, and fire, and the other things that they need in their communities.” 

Anthony Minghine is with the Michigan Municipal League. He says there’s little in the report to specifically help governments facing big retiree health care costs.

“Every dollar we send out the door for legacy costs is a dollar not being used to provide current police, and fire, and parks, and all the stuff that folks count on in their communities. We’ve got to strike a better balance. We can’t divert the amount of money that we currently are towards those costs.”

The commission’s co-chair says every local government is in a different place, so it was impossible to come up with specific solutions that fit every situation. The next step is to share the report with the solution, which could adopt bills that reflect the proposals. 

Rick Pluta is the Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He is heard daily on WCMU's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.