Making — and breaking — promises

Published 6:32 pm Friday, March 31, 2017

If Senate Bill 467 passes, state workers hired after July 2018 will no longer be eligible to enroll in the state health insurance plan after retirement, and many will not qualify for state pensions.

The bill’s sponsors say this is a way for the state to stop accruing debt from the insurance and pension plans, which were promised yet not fully funded.

Cutting government expenses is not a bad idea on the surface. However, the problem here is where legislators are trying to make the cuts. State pensions and health insurance are in place for a reason — even after retirement. Although not of the same caliber, the idea is similar to situations involving veterans. The idea is to not only attract people to work, but also to compensate them for their years of service to the government, whether at the state or federal levels.

Cutting these benefits after retirement is like a slap in the face. After a 30-year career, the state is essentially pushing an employee to the side by saying he is not eligible for a set pension or for the same health insurance most likely used for all 30 years prior. In the legislators’ defense, the bill does provide that the state match employees’ payments into 401-Ks.

Lawmakers should think long and hard about what these cuts will do to the state’s applicant pool, though. It’s no secret that many people are attracted to government jobs because of the security offered before and after retirement.

An even bigger problem is the fact that legislators are using their own poor budgeting as an excuse to cut these benefits. Promising one thing yet failing to follow through with necessary funds should be an embarrassment, but it seems to be a common theme with legislators.

Surely there are much better ways to right this wrong. Perhaps funneling money from lobbying corporations would suffice. Or, another option: using the money spent on keeping public records under lock and key toward this instead.

Either way one looks at it, empty promises are unacceptable.