Po­lice, fire win bat­tle over re­tiree ben­e­fits

Law­mak­ers scale back re­form plan af­ter union op­po­si­tion

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY MICHAEL GERSTEIN AND JONATHAN OOSTING Detroit News Lans­ing Bureau

Lans­ing — Fire­fighter and po­lice of­fi­cer unions cel­e­brated a vic­tory at the Michi­gan Capi­tol on Thurs­day as Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors scaled back a lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­tire­ment re­form pack­age crit­ics feared could slash promised ben­e­fits for pub­lic work­ers.

The state House and Se­nate, af­ter work­ing through the night un­til early Thurs­day morn­ing, ap­proved iden­ti­cal pack­ages that will re­quire lo­cal gov­ern­ments to be­gin to ad­dress un­funded pen­sion and health care li­a­bil­i­ties.

But leg­isla­tive lead­ers gut­ted tougher pro­vi­sions that would have al­lowed state in­ter­ven­tion to force ben­e­fit or bud­get changes, pro­vi­sions they said were in­tended to pre­vent dras­tic cuts through bank­rupt­cies.

The re­vised plan aligns with rec­om­men­da­tions from a work group that had been ap­pointed by GOP Gov. Rick Snyder but failed to find con­sen­sus on some is­sues. Snyder and leg­isla­tive lead­ers had pur­sued a more ag­gres­sive plan but were not able to se­cure enough votes amid ob­jec­tions from pub­lic safety em­ployee unions and uni­form op­po­si­tion from Democrats.

“We know we can agree on these re­vi­sions,” said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Ar­lan Meekhof, R-West Olive, af­ter unan­i­mous votes in the up­per cham­ber around 3 a.m. Thurs­day.

Meekhof ex­pressed some dis­ap­point­ment at not hav­ing over­sight mea­sures that Repub­li­cans had orig­i­nally in­cluded in the pack­age but said they made ac­cept­able com­pro­mises with law­mak­ers who were not at first in sup­port.

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