Public employees deserve decent pensions

April 12, 2010

I guess I should be glad that that Jay Hancock acknowledges the fact that public employees are "essential" and that they deserve to be "decently compensated, especially firefighters and police" ("Balto. County takes a step to defuse the pension bomb," April 11).

Mr. Hancock's analysis appears to be somewhat simplistic and the only thing I really got out of reading his piece is that it is a good thing that Baltimore County pays less than the state in pension benefits. Clearly, Baltimore County has developed some good ideas to deal with its pension obligations. However, I don't believe that this is a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. Also, it is a fact that voters have continually voted in politicians who have underfunded pension obligations over an extended period of time.

A better analysis for the sake of comparison would be to study total compensation packages, taking into account : salary, health care benefits, pensions, retiree health care, vacation and sick leave, bonuses and commissions and all expense account perks. Additionally, one would have to stop lumping all public employees together. Different counties, municipalities and states, as well as the federal government, have very different compensation packages. I know that in the past some Baltimore County employees had greater salaries than state employees doing the same work. Does Mr. Hancock know this?

My friends in the private sector have always earned more than I did as a state employee, even if their jobs required less real work and if they had considerably less responsibility. Any diminishment in retirement benefits will only mean that these public employees will require greater compensation in the salary portion of their compensation packages in order to fund their retirements. Up to this point the hope has apparently been that we would die off before cashing in. If public employees are going to need to fund a greater portion of their retirements, they will require more money up front.

I do believe that some changes can be made to most pension plans such as having the employee work longer before becoming eligible for full retirement benefits. I don't however believe that anyone should be punished for taking a job in the public sector. Government workers are not doing volunteer work. They expect to be as "decently" compensated as private sector employees are. Why shouldn't they be?

Edward McCarey McDonnell, Baltimore

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