Skubick: Opposing sides dig in over first responder retiree benefits

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – The governor and some legislative Republicans have begun the push to pass legislation that they argue will save health care benefits for first responder retirees.

Those first responders argue this is an effort to take those benefits away.

The fight over health care benefits for theser retired police and firefighters has moved from the Capitol lawn to the House and Senate committee rooms where the complaints about the Republican plan were heard again.

Union leaders and local government officials are united in their opposition to the creation of an emergency manager panel of three that could impose retiree cuts to eliminate the debt.

George Basar of the Michigan Association of Police Chiefs claims “the em lite and other provisions have the ability to take away and modify retiree health care benefits.”

Gov. Snyder went into the Senate Republican caucus trying to convince all the “no” votes that this package will preserve the health care benefits for first responder retirees.

Firefighters union president Mark Docherty sees another agenda in play. “There’s an underlying ideology and argument here that nobody should have retiree health care.”

At the opening bell the proposal is in deep trouble in the Senate where half of the caucus opposes the bill.

But the Republican sponsor says his colleagues don’t understand that there are ways for a local government to avoid the emergency manager if they bargain in good faith to resolve the debt.

“If they can demonstrate they have a plan and not digging the hole deeper, they will qualify for a waiver and they’ll go on a watch list,” says Sen. Mike Shirkey.

But some Republicans won’t touch the benefits for those who put their lives on the line each day.

“I don’t vote to monkey with a pension or health care especially after they have been retired,” explained Sen. Jack Brandenburg.

The governor and the House and Senate leaders are not giving up.

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