To the Editor:
I am a state worker and am not writing to whine, cry or complain, but rather to inform others of a segment of state employees that have been gravely impacted by pension reform. I believe the state pension system needed to be reformed. A set retirement age, both realistic and in line with other industries, should have been established years ago. Compounded COLAs should have been eliminated and the COLA determination revised and tied to the CPI. Perhaps if that had happened, I would not be in the situation I am in today.
Although our governor, general treasurer and union leadership believe the proposed pension settlement is a win for all, they are sadly mistaken. State workers over 55 years of age who are vested with under 20 years of state service are the sacrificial lambs of both the initial bill and this settlement. We do not have the years of employment left for a hybrid system to work for us. The half percent I will get from this proposed settlement will be negligible in my pension, and I don’t foresee any noticeable increase in my retirement benefit.
When the federal government changed its retirement system in 1986 from the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), newly hired employees were put into the new system and existing employees were given the option of joining the FERS or staying in the CSRS. In President Bush’s charge to the Commission to Strengthen Social Security, he included the principle that any reform to the Social Security System should not affect the benefits of anyone 55 or older.
I am 59 years old and have been employed by the state for 19 years and four months. I have made life decisions based on salary and projected retirement earnings. I was under the belief that being vested meant I worked for the state long enough to be entitled to full pension benefits in the retirement plan. As it stands now, I will lose about 20 percent in pension benefits that, at my age, I can never regain. For me, and others in the same position, working well into our 70s is our new reality.
This settlement is unfair to older workers and, in my opinion, may also be discriminatory. Neither politicians nor union officials appear to care about either the welfare or security of older employees. From my position this is not a good day, it is not a win-win, and I do not see retirement as an option any time in the foreseeable future.
Diane L. Taft