Politics & Government
5:31 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Political Roundup: Teacher pension, health care benefits and the election reform package

It was a busy day for lawmakers at the State Capital on Wednesday. They came in from summer recess for a one day session.

Out of that meeting, Gov. Snyder is expected to sign legislation that will require teachers and school employees to pay more for health insurance and pensions.

In a press release Snyder's administration said the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System or MPSERS was on an unsustainable path. Susan Demas, Political Analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service says the state could save as much as $15 billion of unfunded liability.

Demas tells Michigan Radio's Jennifer White that Wednesday's meeting only tackled school employee’s health care benefits and the work’s not done yet.

“The pension costs are going to be determined after a study will be done on November 15, to look at maybe changing fully to a 401k style plan,” said Demas.

“And it’s going to cost them [school employees] more, particularly health care benefits are going to cost more and some of them may even opt out of that system. But, I think there could be some angst out there, and we might see that displayed in November,” said Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

In the wake of the scandal involving now Republican House Representative Roy Schmidt and House Speaker Jase Bolger, the House passed an election reform package. The bill passed 106-0 in the House and is headed to the Senate. It includes a provision that would create an extension of two business days for non-incumbents to file to run for office if a candidate withdraws and leaves the ballot blank for that office, according to an MLive report.

Sikkema says, "With Representative Schimdt's vote and the Speaker's vote, that indicates they are trying to repair some of the political damage they've done to themselves, but also honestly try to reform the system."

Of course Democrats want to see tougher penalties. Demas says, “In light of some more of the texts involving Bolger and Schmidt, and even involving Representative Lisa Lyons who’s out of the Grand Rapids area, a lot of Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer would like the Kent County Prosecutor to reopen the case and look at other areas of law. She’s pointing to possible violations under the racketeering statute or perjury."