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Steve Winter
State Representative
District 3

March 8, 2011
"Pension Problems Part 2"

Steven Winter represents the towns of Newbury and Sutton, Merrimack District 3, in the NH House of Representatives.

Representative Winter is a member of the House Executive Department & Administration  Committee, The Special Committee on Public Employee Pension Reform and the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR).

"Public pension promises are huge and, in many cases, funding is woefully inadequate." Ė Warren Buffet

A number of bills were filed in the Retirement Reform Committee to make cuts and adjustments to current public employee benefit packages, described by many as "Cadillac" packages. HB460 increased the retirement age for Group II (police and fire workers). HB265 eliminated "spiking", which crammed extra hours of service into the last three years to increase retirement income. HB465 changed final average pay for retirement calculations from three to five years. This is the short list. There are many other changes in the works.

The unions that represent state workers have made no effort to negotiate any of the above changes to their retirement systems. I am an advocate of unionism. I was a national officer of a union and I know the benefits that a unified group can gain through collective bargaining. But the tack taken by the public employee unions is baffling me. Although they have attended hearings and given testimony, their bottom line is "NO". They are not willing to accept or negotiate any changes.

In my former airline industry more than three-quarters of the companies either went out of business or filed for bankruptcy since 9/11. The two or three that survived without either (mine was one) did so because their unions worked with the companies to mitigate the impending cuts and negotiated to "sell" some things that the company needed in order to survive. Unions were able to give up income while improving working conditions with no-cost proposals. They were not looking for an even trade. They did not want to kill the golden goose. They were working to help their companies survive and getting the best deal they could for their assistance.

But the public employee unions in this state and other states do not get the picture. They think that the state cannot go bankrupt. All we need to do is increase taxes and pay them their due. Unless they have been living under a rock, they certainly must know that there is a tax rebellion afoot all across this great country. Itís in every town, every county and every state. The ability of taxpayers to pay those taxes is finite. The last election was a tsunami that told legislatures across the country, "Enough is enough. Stop the spending." Most states got the message although Iím not sure the federal government did.

In New Hampshire there was a change of control in Concord, the size of which has not been seen in decades. The new party that was elected said they would balance the budget, including the impending $900M shortfall, without raising taxes and without downshifting costs to cities and towns. We have set out to do that. But many states are facing de facto bankruptcy. If they have no money to pay retirees, they are in fact bankrupt. Congress, seeing all of the red ink in 50 states, is considering changing the law to allow states to file bankruptcy and abrogate all contracts, including union contracts.

Steve Winter, Representative, Merrimack District 3
Newbury and Sutton, New Hampshire 

Telephone:  603-271- 3125 and 271-3319

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