Skubick: 100s rally at Capitol to preserve police and fire retiree health care

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – About 500 retired police officers and firefighters were on the State Capitol steps today worried that Republicans want to reduce or eliminate their long term health care benefits.

Republicans deny the charge.

Protestors have been here before as they tried to kill Right to Work and now they are worried that House Republicans want to eliminate their retiree health care benefits and they don’t like it.

Firefighters union leader Mark Docherty is convinced Republicans want to take away benefits of retirees. “Yes, of course. There is a fundamental belief that those benefits should not exist.”

“What we’re trying to do is to make sure that the local units save and plan for paying these benefits into the future so they dont get left out cold on the street,” explains Republican State Rep. Tom Albert.

But there are those in the crowd that don’t trust the Republicans.

Former fire chief and now State Representative Tim Cochran believes taking away benefits is a death sentence for some. “Absolutely. They’ll eat up their retirement. They won’t be able to afford health care. It’s just non-stop attacks on us.”

He disagrees with Republicans who say that’s not going to happen.

These are the two Republicans who are being accused by the unions of trying to slash benefits by creating a state-appointed panel that could impose cuts on retirees if they don’t agree to cuts.

“That portion is being worked on as we speak,” says Rep. Jim Lower. He stopped short of saying that is a possibility. “I wouldn’t characterize it that way. I can’t comment cause it’s still being worked on.”

Meanwhile Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is reassuring union members that slashing benefits is not on the table.

“It’s an important principle that these brave men and women that have worked hard and put their lives on the line and they have vested benefits that those promises need to be made to them,” said Calley.

Suffice it to say today’s protestors want to see that in writing.

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