|Is it more important to insure that billionaires like the heirs of the Mars family won't have to pay an estate tax? Is a two-year, one-percent increase in the state income tax so evil that avoiding it justifies gutting services for the poor and sick and endangering public education?
And, now, we are going to have the creation of two classes of public employees, those now working vs the newly hired. They may be doing the same job but they won't have the same compensation.
New hires will be required to pay the five percent of salary into VRS that is now paid by the state. They also will not be able to retire as early as those now employed. They will receive a smaller pension for the same amount of work. That ought to do wonders for morale and teamwork!
Many years ago, Owen Pickett of Virginia Beach, who resigned from the General Assembly in 1986 to run for Congress, wanted to cut the benefits paid to retirees in VRS. He didn't get his way back then, but this "Great Recession" has given those now in the General Assembly who think like him their chance to do the same thing.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Lacey Putney (I-Bedford) pushed for and got changes to raise retirement ages and lower benefits for future employees.
Localities, as well, are being given "an offer they can't refuse." They can fail to provide their contribution to the VRS while also making their employees pay 5 percent of their salaries into the retirement system.
I remember when my school division's employees first got the benefit of having the locality pay our 5 percent contribution into VRS. At the time, I distrusted the whole thing, saying it would allow the legislators to say that we had no say in our own retirement fund because we didn't pay into it. It took quite a while to get to that point, but here we are.
The local and state payment was done as the last severe recession was ending in the early 1980's. We teachers had not gotten a raise for at least two years. Because localities and the state wouldn't have to pay Social Security taxes and other fees associated with a raise if it took over our VRS payment, that became our "raise" that year. I believe it was 1983.
This upcoming year that piper must be paid. Local employees who haven't had a raise in several years will now face a 5% decrease in salary masked as a contribution to VRS. On the state level, the cut in pay and the lowering of pension benefits is reserved for new hires.
I won't be affected. I am presently drawing my VRS pension. However, the two-tier system that Lacey Putney concocted in Richmond is a disgrace. How can anyone say that we treat people equally in this Commonwealth when those who are hired in the future get a pension that is lower than those of us who did the very same job? We can't.