Don’t expect any changes to school retirement system

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\”Call the Tune\” by Mike Anthony

After visiting Jefferson City last week, we certainly don’t have much hope that any changes will be made to the Missouri Public School Retirement System.

We attended a Feb. 24 hearing of the Missouri House Retirement Committee on a bill introduced by Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-Winchester, that would establish a defined-contribution plan in the Missouri Public School Retirement System for any new employee who becomes a member beginning July 1, 2013. Such membership would be automatic unless the employee elects to become a member of the current defined-benefit plan within 12 months of his or her hire date.

Mind you, this bill would not eliminate, terminate or change the system’s current defined-benefit plan in any way, shape or form. Koenig’s proposal merely sought to offer a defined-contribution plan as an alternative for new employees.

But to hear the outcry from representatives of the retirement system, the Missouri State Teachers Association, the Missouri National Education Association and others, one might think the world was coming to an end.

Quite frankly, that’s fine. We’d expect representatives of such organizations to lobby forcefully for keeping the current defined-benefit plan in which retirees receive benefits for life.

Who in their right mind would want to change such a lucrative retirement system — except maybe the taxpayers who are on the hook for half of an employee’s retirement contributions.

The contribution rate for the 2010-2011 school year is 14 percent for an employee and 14 percent for a school district, which uses tax revenue to make that contribution.

So who’s looking out for the taxpayers? Some members of the House Retirement Committee certainly are not as they have strong ties to education as teachers or retired educators.

Consider what Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-Affton, who has taught for roughly 25 years, told Koenig: “Well, I appreciate your concern for us. I really do. I’m sure it’s sincere and you’re concerned about our best interest, however, I have been inundated and flooded with letters of teachers who do not want the change. So there seems to be this concern for us that — you have a concern for us that we don’t ourselves have …”

With a comment like that, we can’t help but wonder whether some of the Retirement Committee members are representing the taxpayers’ interest — or their own.