Skubick: Battle building over pensions and health care costs

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Unions and local employees are bracing for another battle with Republicans in the Michigan House over forcing workers to contribute more for their health care costs.

On one front, Democrats, unions, and teachers are fighting in the Michigan Senate to kill a plan forcing new teachers out of the state pension system.

While on a second front, firefighters, police officers, and local employees are battling over House Republican efforts forcing them to kick in more for their health care costs.

“Well, it’s an all-out assault on retiree but I suspect it would literally wipe out some retirees pensions completely and health care costs.”

Jackson Representative Earl Poleski and others have introduced thirteen bills this week to make sure there was enough money to cover the long term health care costs.

Republicans claim there’s an $11 billion debt in local retirement funds in seventy-eight counties.

“We have a lot of unfunded liabilities in our state we’ve got to try and start to manage them better,” said Rep. Poleski. “If we don’t and I hope we don’t see anything in the future that looks anything like a Detroit bankruptcy.”

One of the proposals would force new local employees to create and fund their own health savings account while another option is to have current employees kick in 20 percent for health insurance with with local governments paying for 80 percent.

Democrat Representative David Rutledge in on the committee and is opposed to that proposal.

“I would be worrying about how I am going to make ends meet and with the things that are happening at the federal level potentially with the affordable care act,” says Rep. Rutledge. “I mean people should be worried.”

But House Speaker Rep. Kevin Cotter says if they do nothing people could lose all of their benefits.

“It’s also important to recognize that it is critically important that we take some steps to address this problem,” says Rep. Cotter. “Otherwise these same people will be very drastically affected if we have further failings at the local level.”

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