Monday, February 27, 2012

Retired teachers ask lawmakers to do the right thing

Issues like these don't get the coverage they deserve. In support of the retired educators in your area, I hope you'll forward this note to your own friends and family, and encourage them to support retirees' efforts to get the benefits they've been promised.

Last week, a group of retirees came to Columbia to speak with lawmakers.

Retired Barnwell County school teacher Jerry Bell says he flirted with the idea of taking a part-time job to supplement his state benefits but he says he doesn't have the time.

"Retired state employees don't just go home and collect their checks,” said Bell. “Retired teachers in my area run the food banks, and the animal shelters."

Bell, along with other former and current state employees are asking lawmakers not to drastically change the pension system and guarantee cost of living adjustments.

"1% increase over 10 years is like a 40% decrease,” adds Bell. “When you don't get that one percent increase, you're not getting it forever."

The South Carolina Public Pension Coalition claims there's a billion dollars of revenue available in state coffers, yet teacher and state worker salaries have remained frozen for the last four years.

Lawmakers say reforming the pension system is one of their top priorities this year. They are considering proposals that will increase how much workers pay into it.

"Teachers work hard, state employees work hard,” said Bell. “This state wouldn't run without teachers and state employees. We expect to be treated with respect."

Lexington State Representative Kenny Bingham is on a committee that will look at pension reform. The Republican lawmaker told WACH-Fox he's too tied up with the budget to talk about the issue, but will do so next week.

Retired public employees gave decades of their lives to public service, at low wages and salaries, counting on the state to keep its commitment of retirement benefits. Now those benefits are in jeopardy. Our public retirees don't deserve the anxiety they're suffering. They did their part.

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