Changing pension plan breaks a state promise

OlympiaMarch 30, 2013 

We are talking loudly about government abandoning its commitments – calling them entitlements or overly generous benefits. Current proposals would do away with state defined benefit pension plans and replace them with defined contribution plans. A defined contribution plan is a convenient way for an employer to remind folks to set aside some of your own earnings for future use. The government that provides this plan does little more than allow an employee to use some byways of existing laws to help themselves. It costs little to nothing to offer it and little harm results from employers taking credit for an employee acting in a responsible manner.

This plan may be good, but there is harm in replacing that orange of contribution with the apple of benefit. A defined benefit plan recognizes increasing years of service as a valuable asset to the employer. It is also a promise that says “you could get more money elsewhere up front, but stay with us and we’ll pay at least as much in the long run.”

Most enemies of this plan want you to forget that the benefit being defined is pay that was already earned and held aside for decades, and also held as further inducement for continued service. Defined benefit is the fulfillment of a promise. It is a social contract.

There is an honorable course to take and it begins by recognizing and respecting the promises we’ve made.

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