As State Elected Officials Head up for Mackinac Island Conference, They’re Still Fudging The Numbers When It Comes to Teacher Retirement System Raid Proposal

Michigan’s state elected officials still have important work to do on the state budget; work they should discuss this week at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island.

There will be fudge, no doubt. Along with some unfortunate fudging of the numbers on one of the governor’s key proposals in the state budget. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and Senate and House leaders now each have different plans to divert nearly a billion dollars from public school retirement funding. And although some special interest groups continue to cheer about this misguided proposal because it pads their bottom line, teachers and kids are the ones who will be left holding the bag.

As our families struggle to deal with scorching inflation that has been flamed by government overspending now is not the time to grow government spending. However, it is never time to steal from teacher pensions and pile problems onto the backs of our kids.

Supporters of the proposals say the state is able to redirect the money because it has paid off this massive teacher retirement debt. To be clear, that is simply not true. Michigan has made a promise to hardworking teachers to fully fund both their pension and retiree healthcare accounts, and the promise is unfulfilled. If this promise is not fully funded, then the retirement of our teachers will be at risk, and the payments left for our kids will be overinflated.

Redirecting $670 million from teacher pension funding also adds tremendous risk to unfunded liabilities for schools and, most importantly, represents a broken promise to Michigan’s public school teachers.

As well as hurting teachers, Michigan taxpayers will also be forced to bear the financial consequences of this short-sighted decision, compromising the state’s fiscal health and placing an undue strain on taxpayers already dealing with growing economic pressures.

As budget discussions get restarted after the Mackinac Policy Conference, we urge legislators to reject this proposal and approve a fiscally responsible state budget that supports teachers while paying down our debts and helping Michigan’s economy and credit rating improve.

While we’re making progress to pay off this massive debt, we can’t stop now. In fact, legislators could be breaking the law if they do decide to redirect this funding. A law authored by then-Rep. Thomas Albert in 2018 requires the state to stay on schedule with its debt payments. Albert is now a state senator who is helping lead the charge to stop this misguided proposal.

With the Legislature idle, there is still time to get your voices heard. Please contact your state representatives and senators and tell them to oppose the raid on our state’s teacher retirement system.