Police, fire win battle over retiree benefits
Lawmakers scale back reform plan after union opposition
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.