Education union head asks legislators
to wait for the facts
President Larry Putill testifies at State House pension hearing
National Education Association Rhode Island President Larry Purtill testified October 26 before the joint hearing of the House and Senate Finance Committees on the pension reform measure proposed by Governor Lincoln Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo. The following statement is taken from his testimony:
“We understand there is a problem and we want to help. We want a fair system to all and one that is sustainable far into the future.
“Increasing the retirement age to 67 is problematic on many fronts. One is economics. Forcing individuals to work until 67 will create staffs of top step employees, costing cities and towns millions of dollars in the need for increased revenue. This will only get passed to the local taxpayer.
“It is also educationally unsound. You want veteran teachers on your staff but you also want young teachers, new to the profession with their ideas and enthusiasm. Mix that with experience and commitment demonstrated across the educational spectrum and you have a model for a great staff. This plan does not allow for that.
“There are other concerns. A Chariho maintenance worker who is ready to retire said it would be hard to do his job – climbing roofs and more – at age 67. On top of that he wouldn’t see any increase in his COLA until age 86, under this plan.
“Suspending the COLA is a huge concern. Even given the current low rate of inflation, the price of everyday items is anticipated to increase 61 percent before pensioners would receive a pay increase. This is a tremendous loss of purchasing power that will come right out of the Rhode Island economy.
“The problem is magnified by the fact that half of the state’s teachers and public safety workers do not receive Social Security, which is getting a COLA raise this year. Many who have earned Social Security credit in earlier professions will have it reduced by as much as 60-80 percent if they retire from a community that does not pay in, according to the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision.
“We want the state to be successful but part of that success is having public policy and legislation that provides retirement security for those in public service. This problem is decades in the making and I ask that you listen to us, work with us, and wait until you have all the facts and numbers. Let’s get it right once and for all.”