Skubick: Heat turns up on teacher pension vote

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Michigan lawmakers are still considering whether to revamp the teacher pension system and opponents were hoping to convince enough Republicans to vote no to kill the measure.

Teachers jammed the lobby outside the state Senate before the vote.

And when the count was finished a bill calling for newly hired teachers to be steered into a 401(k)-style retirement plan instead of one that includes a traditional pension was narrowly passed the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate.

And outside the Michigan House, teachers were hoping to convince enough Republicans to vote “no” on changing the teacher pension system.

And Republican Rep. Tim Kelly, who supports the changes, conceded at 10:30 this morning there might be enough Republicans to kill the plan.

“I’m hearing different numbers, four, six, twelve. I’m not sure.”

The vote is already hanging on a razor-thin margin.

“I understand that. We’ve got very few votes to lose here,” explains Rep. Kelly.

Michigan Education Association staffmember Doug Pratt was hoping to pick off those Republicans.

“I think there are a critical mass of Republicans who aren’t ready to cast this vote and have serious concerns about the policy and the timing.”

Freshman Republican Rep. Joe Boleno is on the fence and is being leaned on by his teacher friends back home to vote “no”, including twelve teachers in his own family.

“I’m being leaned on by a lot of people,” says the first-term lawmaker. “This is the first lean-on vote I’ve had.”

But he will also be leaned on by the Republican leadership to vote “yes”.

“Does that happen here?,” asked Rep. Boleno.

You bet it does and Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard, who lost a close vote on a tax cut earlier this year, does not want another loss on teacher pensions.

The question is can he prevent Republican defections on this one?

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