As the country watches the current pro-union demonstrations in Madison, many analysts predict similar battles will be waged in state legislatures the country over. Interestingly enough, Arizona’s pension battle is already underway, though opposition to reform has yet to reach the same intensity witnessed in Wisconsin.
Arizona will have a projected deficit of $1.15 billion for FY2012. In 2009, Arizona pension plans costs taxpayers $1.39 billion.
While it is true that state employees should receive pensions, what they are getting now is fiscally unsustainable, and in some cases, blatantly irresponsible. One man, David Boggs (who worked with Maricopa County’s Regional Public Transportation Authority), will receive $89,000 for the rest of his life; he served Arizona a whopping six years.
This is just one example of a broken system that is causing Arizona taxpayers billions.
Thankfully for Arizona, there are still some politicians who are not afraid to confront the 360,000 + constituents in the state that receive pensions, or the unions that represent them.
Enter AZ House Speaker Kirk Adams (R-Mesa).
On Febrary 8, Speaker Adams introduced his highly controversial pension reform bill, which has just passed a House committee. The bill takes a common sense approach to reform. Among other things, it requires state employees to work until 62, with ten years of service before they can collect pension payments, it ends double-dipping (collecting a pension, while still working for the government), and it makes state employees pay as much into the pension fund as their employers do.
These reforms may seem practical, but one thing Madison has proven is that reform will not be easy. Union leadership, democrats, and state employees are sure to fight for what they feel entitled to – an easier road than everyone else.
However, one thing is certain; the more unions and the left argue against pension reform, the more credibility they will lose. 9.1% of Arizonans are unemployed, and millions more have taken extreme financial hits since 2008. I believe the average Arizonan believes what I do: Its time for state employees and union workers to stop receiving preferential treatment over the rest of the population. We have much more important things to fund.
State employees: I know you’ll make the debate dramatic, but good luck convincing unemployed Arizonans who have lost their homes to foreclosure that you deserve to retire early at their expense.