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Pensions were, and still are, a ‘promise’

Hats off to Mick Kazmerski for his letter on Feb. 8 titled “Looking for fair coverage on pensions.”

In SVM’s adjacent editorial of the same date, you blast the legislators and governor for not doing anything to solve the state pension funding crisis, rightfully without implying blame on the state’s employees and existing retirees. 

As Mick clearly states, and I believe it started more than 30 years ago, past governors and members of the General Assembly blatantly began siphoning money from the state retirement system’s budgeted funding obligations to pay for their more politically motivated pet projects throughout the state.

And it continued as a political habit with every successive administration until it now has become a so-called $95 billion crisis. 

My wife, a teacher, and I, a highway engineer, started our careers more than 50 years ago. Suddenly, after our first year of employment, we each took automatic 8 percent payroll deductions from our salaries, the start of our obligations to fund our respective state retirement systems.

We did not have any choice. It was mandatory, pursuant to then-existing state law.

And, like clockwork for the next 35 years, we each continued to mandatorily meet our individual obligations to our respective retirement systems. Admittedly, even though we had no choice, we are now most grateful for having kept our part of the deal. 

The point of all this is, the pensioners of this state are not to blame for this so-called crisis and should not be punished by our lawmakers with reductions in their existing long ago constitutionally promised pension benefits.

In my book, a promise is a promise.

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