Pensions of state workers should be shifted to 401(k)

April 08, 2011

I must agree with Merle Cuttitta, president of SEIU Local 500, when he writes in his "Readers Respond" letter ("General Assembly attack on pensions is unconscionable, " April 4) urging our lawmakers in Annapolis not to punish the hardworking men and women of our state. But, beyond that, Mr. Cuttitta's letter is wrong in so many ways.

First he touts the No. 1 rating of Maryland public schools and the part played by union workers in achieving that rating. As a number of recent letters appearing in "Readers Respond" from retired teachers and college educators attest, the reality is that undeserving students are promoted and even graduated in order to show improvements in Baltimore City graduation rates and that large percentages of Maryland students enter college without basic writing skills. Add to that reports of fixing or cheating on standardized test scores. What do the folks who are pushing unworthy students through the school system and who are fixing answers on standardize tests have in common; and who's national organization is awarding No.1 ratings to a state school system where students must take remedial reading, writing and math courses as prerequisites to standard entry level college courses? They are Mr. Cuttitta's brothers and sisters at the Maryland State Education Association.

Next, Mr. Cuttitta notes that many of his union workers have dedicated 20, 25 and even 35 years of public service and deserve to retire with dignity. Mr. Cuttitta should note that most of the hardworking men and women of our state could only retire after 35 years if they began working at the age of 30 and it is those non-public union working families that are being put upon with fees, an increased gasoline tax and even a "dime a drink" in order to pay for union entitlements.

If the governor and legislature really cared about the hardworking men and women of our state, they wouldn't burden them with paying for Mr. Cuttitta's early retirement. Instead, they should eliminate the public workers' pensions in favor of matching 401(k) contributions from those workers themselves and invite them to do so until they are 65 years old, like the rest of us. While they are at it, they should also eliminate the neat little racket of unions negotiating with a politician whose election they financed. The only governors making tough decisions regarding unsustainable union pensions' are governors Christie and Walker.

Dennis Peltz, Perry Hall

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