Senate approves local retirement stability bills

Our local public servants are invaluable to our communities, and I will continue fighting to preserve and protect the promises made to our local workers and ensure they receive the retirement benefits they earned helping make Michigan a great place to live, work and raise a family.

The Michigan Senate has approved legislation to implement the recommendations of the governor’s Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government Task Force, which released its findings and recommendations this summer.

Local governments in Michigan are currently $18.8 billion in the red on their pension and retirement health care obligations.

As a member of the bipartisan task force, my goal was to increase transparency, preserve local control and encourage local solutions. While many local government and labor leaders have already taken steps together to address their unfunded liabilities, these proactive reforms are designed to help locals that either are unaware of their growing debt issue or have not been able to solve the problem.

The legislation is the result of a lot of hard work, and I want to thank the Midland firefighters and all those who contacted me for their involvement and their productive conversations.

Senate Bills 686 and 688-699 would create a stress system with additional reporting and steps for local governments with unfunded liabilities to develop and implement action plans to address the community’s debt.

The majority of locals will never need to move beyond the first step, which requires reporting of costs and benefits to accurately assess retirement costs and taxpayer obligations. If a local government is in trouble, this reform will let the community and retirees know as early as possible — giving the community its best chance to resolve the problem before it impacts local workers or retiree benefits.