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Shoring up Ohio teachers’ pensions

May 2, 2012
Salem News

Virtually everyone agrees something needs to be done about the $13.3 billion in unfunded liabilities burdening the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System. And - as has not always been true in other states - there seems to be a consensus on how to accomplish that.

Earlier this month, the STRS board unanimously approved a reform plan. It seems to be acceptable to officials of the Ohio Education Association, the state's largest teachers union. To be implemented, it needs to be accepted by the General Assembly.

Teachers would lose some major benefits if the plan is adopted. But even then, they still would enjoy a retirement plan substantially better than most available to workers in the private sector. Sweetening the deal is a gradual phase-in of some changes.

Under the current pension system, teachers can retire with full pensions once they have worked 30 years or more. That means some educators can leave the classroom before they are 55 years old.

If the reform plan is implemented, the 30-years-and-out benefit would remain in effect until mid-2015. Requirements for more service to receive full pensions would be phased in gradually until mid-2026. After that date, full pensions would be paid only if teachers have worked for 35 years and are at least 60 years old.

Other proposed changes include reducing annual cost-of-living pension increases from the current 3 percent to 2 percent, and boosting the teachers' contribution to their pensions to 14 percent of salary instead of the current 10 percent.

OEA officials seem to understand there is no alternative if the pension program is to be kept solvent without massive infusions of taxpayer money. Legislators should approve the plan in order to keep the retirement plan secure.

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Some of the rural post offices throughout the nation set to be closed by the Postal Service could be retained if Congress provides the agency what amounts to an $11 billion bailout.

But the reprieve will be only temporary unless the Postal Service finds ways to balance its bottom line.

The Senate approved an $11 billion infusion of cash this week, by a 62-37 vote.

If approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Barack Obama, the measure will postpone closings of about 3,700 post offices and 252 mail sorting facilities. But, as Manchin, Rockefeller and Portman understand, providing the $11 billion will merely delay cutbacks that are inevitable unless the Postal Service finds and implements basic reforms.

At present, Postal Service officials seem to have no long-range plan to modernize the agency. By that, we mean the Postal Service continues to operate under a 20th-century model, with little recognition of how to deal with competition from electronic message delivery and efficient private-sector package shippers.

Until and unless that riddle is solved, the Postal Service will continue to hemorrhage money - and actions such as post office closings will remain on the table.

 
 

 

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