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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

An evolving position (or how I was against PSPRS pension reform before I was for it)

I would like to present the following with a minimum of commentary:

Here is a passage from a May 16, 2011 Arizona Republic editorial by Tim Hill, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona (PFFA), entitled "Hill: No fix is needed for police, fire pensions":
As president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, I find myself on the verge of admiration for our state's Legislature and its session recently past. It's not often you can fix something that isn't broken and punish every firefighter and police officer in Arizona - and earn congratulations from the state's largest newspaper in the process.
In the world of Arizona politics, I have to imagine that's what they call a "win-win-win."
Unfortunately, the Legislature's so-called pension reform is bad news for more than 20,000 public-safety workers in Arizona, notwithstanding The Republic's editorial thumbs-up. Let me explain.

Despite the politicians' sound bites, the manufactured "think tank" studies and the ensuing headlines, Arizona's Public Safety Personnel Retirement System has never been at a "financial precipice," nor on the verge of bankruptcy.
Now this from Mr. Hill's President's Message in the April 2014 issue of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona Magazine:
Earlier I mentioned stopping our opponents by winning hearts and mind and doing everything we can to better educate citizens, our own members, the media and elected officials.  This effort will continue to take a number of paths, including leveraging the unbiased and educated opinions of academics like Dr. David Wells of the non-partisan Grand Canyon Institute.  As a respected, non-partisan institution and public watchdog, GCI is everything the Goldwater Institute is not.  That's why we were so gratified to read Wells' January 2014 study entitled "Arizona's Pensions: On Track to Financial Sustainability with Retirement Security."
So what does the Grand Canyon Institute, a self-described think tank, say in the executive summary of "Arizona's Pensions: On Track to Financial Sustainability with Retirement Security":
Arizona lawmakers showed great foresight in strengthening the financial situation of the state's pensions with Senate Bill 1609 passed in 2011.  The 2011 reforms, and other modifications to the Arizona State Pension plan since 2004, curtailed the growth of future pension liabilities, and increased cost-sharing with employees.  While the benefits to taxpayers are already being felt, bigger gains will be seen in coming decades, as many changes impact new enrollees more than current enrollees.
Mr. Hill is certainly allowed to change his position when that position has been later proven to be wrong, though if I was a member of the Arizona Republic or Arizona legislature I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for an apology.  Mr. Hill states in his President's Message that he can not go into what the PFFA is currently doing behind the scenes to "fix our pension system."  However, there was no concern shown by unions in 2011 for the effects of pension reform on future hires (those hired in 2012 or later), who are now subject to SB 1609 reforms regardless of any pending court cases.  Now we have unions that represent active workers intimately involved in pension reform.  Among the three groups of PSPRS members affected by pension reform, those hired in 2012 or later have already been dealt with, active employees are negotiating the reforms, and then there are the retirees.  I will let readers decide who they think will take the brunt of any upcoming reform proposals.

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