Saturday Mailbox


October 29, 2005

State's retirees earned the benefits

The Sun's article regarding the future costs of health benefits for retired state employees is misleading because of what it doesn't say ("Md. benefits loom large," Oct. 22). It would have offered a more balanced, if less sensational, presentation if it had acknowledged that retirement income comes from a combination of sources.

The article cites an AARP report that finds that Maryland's health benefits are "among the most generous in the nation."

It should also have noted that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, pension benefits for Maryland state employees are the second-worst among the 13 public-employee pension plans in the state and in the bottom 10 percent of all state employee retirement plans nationally.

The implication of the article is that state retirees are "overpaid" and that taxpayers might be better off if the state discontinued their partially subsidized health benefits.

But the article does not mention the morality of reneging on a career-long promise to employees. It also does not mention the potential illegality of discontinuing benefits for an existing group of retirees or people who are about to retire, which may be interpreted as age discrimination.

Retired and soon-to-retire employees should not live in fear that their benefits might be taken away.

If states (or any employers) want to discontinue an existing retirement benefit, they should do so only for new employees, not for people who have worked for decades with the promise of a certain set of benefits.

John Santora


The writer is a certified public accountant.

High price of drugs adds to state liability

As lawmakers struggle to solve the problem of the $20 billion liability the state faces to pay for health care benefits for future retirees ("Md. benefits loom large," Oct. 22), they will probably focus on two obvious solutions: cut benefits or raise taxes. If they do so, they will avoid dealing with a major cause of this liability: the cost of prescription drugs.

Based on personal experience, I have to conclude that the drug companies are making exorbitant profits at the cost of the Maryland taxpayer.

Last week, in a health care clinic waiting room, I counted 10 different drug salesmen who visited the clinic over a two-hour period.

I had to wonder about the profits that the companies must be making to pay their salaries. I also have to wonder about the influence these companies must have in Washington to cause politicians to turn a blind eye to an obvious solution to our rising health care costs.

If the cost to the Maryland taxpayer of prescription drugs wasat the same level as it is in Canada and Western Europe, the health care liability could be significantly reduced.

James W. Apgar


The new bus routes may prompt protest

State Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan should be highly embarrassed to make such a senseless and unsubstantiated comment as that, as The Sun puts it, "the routes that the MTA is revamping are the same ones that drove the private bus company that operated Baltimore's system into bankruptcy decades ago" ("Buses start running on new routes," Oct. 23).

Many of the routes that are being cut or canceled now did not exist at that time. So how can Mr. Flanagan even consider making a comparison?

Given the public outcry concerning the first phase in Maryland Transit Administration route changes and cancellations, I predict a repeat when people become more dissatisfied with the lack of easy accessible service.

If the system were to go bankrupt again, management would have no one else to blame but itself.

Robin Dranbauer


Cambridge project threatens the bay

The irony that is the news was starkly evident in the Sunday edition of The Sun.

Frank D. Roylance's article on global warming ("Warm Earth, bigger storms," Oct. 23) reports the present scientific understanding of climate change, outlines the debate and discusses the relationship between weather and longer-term warming trends.

Opposite Mr. Roylance's article was Tom Pelton's reporting that Cambridge has received state endorsement for construction of a hotel, conference center, golf course and houses on 1,080 acres of wetlands leading into the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge ("Project's effect on wildlife debated," Oct. 23).

Cambridge has a problem. It has suffered substantial population loss since 1960. The Blackwater project is seen as the means to reverse this trend, create jobs and increase the tax base. But at what cost?

Approximately one-third of the area slated for development is a critical resource conservation area vital to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Blackwater Wildlife Refuge and its environs are an important link in annual migrations of many avian species and an important part of the state's identity and of Dorchester County's charm.

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