Monday, March 28, 2011

Calling out GOP plan to steal from cops & firemen

Arizona Capitol front lines

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX -- House Democrats are holding Republicans accountable for voting against public safety officers’ lifetime service.

House Republicans voted in committee to steal retirement from firefighters, police and correctional officers in Arizona with passing Senate Bill 1609, which now goes to the House floor. I and the other two Democrats on the committee voted no, as reported in the Arizona Capitol Times on March 23:

'Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson (District 29), said that he hears promises that bills will be modified or improved after they are approved in committee too often, and those improvements never seem to happen.

He added that he was concerned by the speakers who said they felt like they had been left out of the process.

“We should take a more conservative approach, a more careful approach,”
he said. “I don’t think we should rush through this and push people aside.”

SB 1609 would:
-Make it difficult to recruit and retain public safety officers and protect family members’ when an officer is injured or killed in the line of duty.
-Not allow for a cost of living adjustment for approximately 17 years. The adjustment is currently used to offset increasing health care costs because public safety officers don’t qualify for Medicare or receive social security.
-Reduce the amount of an officer’s pension from 75 percent to 50 percent that is transferred to the widow or widower of an officer killed in the line of duty.
-Require law enforcement personnel to work five years longer before being eligible to retire.
-Increase the amount that public safety officers are required to contribute from their salary into their retirement plans at a drastic rate.

“The state constitution already protects public safety officers’ retirement through a voter-approved measure and this bill undermines the will of Arizona voters,” said Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma (District 24). “These are the people on the front lines, protecting our citizens every single day, and they deserve retirement where enjoying basic necessities of life like health care does not turn into a luxury.”

Firefighters, police and correctional officers took a balanced approach to fix the bill and have offered amendments, but Republicans voted against them and passed it. Police stated that Republicans’ claims that law enforcement pension systems are on the verge of collapse are incorrect.

- adapted from House Dems PIO

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