Senate approves local retirement stability bills

Sen. Jim Stamas

Sen. Jim Stamas

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved legislation to implement the recommendations of the governor’s bipartisan Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government Task Force, said Sen. Jim Stamas, who served on the task force.

“Our local public servants are invaluable to our communities,’ said Stamas, R-Midland. “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.”

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

The Senate-passed plan would enact the task force’s recommendations, which were released this summer.

“Our goal is to increase transparency, preserve local control and encourage local solutions,” Stamas said. “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 reforms are 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,” Stamas said. “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.”