Below is written testimony that the Massachusetts Coalition of Police is going to submit on October 31, 2013. The hearing is being conducted by the Joint Committee on Public Service. This bill is very harmful to our membership. It creates change to the pension system and retiree health care that was offered to you when you entered into your employment. We need our membership to contact your state representative and let them know this bill is not something that should come out of committee favorably. There has been some confusion about this bill…some have said that if it is voted favorably at the Oct 31st hearing that it becomes law. That is not true. Even if the committee votes it out favorably, there is still a legislative process that the bill has to follow in order to become law. Masscop is at the State House working to keep bills like this one from becoming reality. Check out the written testimony below.
Written Testimony in Opposition to House Bill 59: An Act providing retiree healthcare benefits reform.
Joint Committee on Public Service, Hearing Date October 31, 2013
The Massachusetts Coalition of Police is vehemently opposed to House Bill 59, as it is patently unfair to the men and women who entered into their employment based on receiving a certain retirement package. This bill changes the rules mid-cycle for many employees. As it relates to public safety employees, it does not make a bit of sense. We ask our police and firefighters to come to work every day, put their lives on the line, and abuse their bodies on a daily basis. There are few occupations that you have to work all night in the dead of winter, fighting the elements, while dealing with some of the most disease-ridden individuals you could ever encounter. Yet that is what many of our public safety professionals are doing nightly. Instead of giving these professionals a chance to retire at the age of forty-five, this bill now moves that back another five years to the age of fifty. The one thing we should not be doing to any public safety employee is delay their pension eligibility. We should be exploring how to let employees retire earlier, not later.
The bill then suggests that we should not be paying the maximum allowable benefit for health insurance to public safety employees unless they stay the full term of thirty-two years. First off, thirty-two years is too long for public safety employees to have to work in the first place, and then after all of those years of dealing with sickness and disease the bill would require them to pay more for their health insurance if they leave early. The truth of the matter is that most public safety employees stay for the full thirty-two years because they are dedicated to their professions, but the people that do not stay the full thirty-two are probably most in need of health insurance and other benefits. Some leave early due to injury or health related problems that do not qualify for disability retirements. The last thing those people need is increased medical cost. Retirees live on a fixed income. We should not be punishing the people who dedicated their lives to protecting and serving the people of the commonwealth. We should be rewarding these people with affordable health care and pensions that ensure a sufficient quality of life.
It is true that health care and pensions are costly items for the commonwealth, but that is the cost of doing business when you employ public safety professionals. The people of the commonwealth have asked these employees to do their job and protect the citizens of the commonwealth. When the employee has reached retirement eligibility age, it is time for the commonwealth to recognize these people and give them what they were told they were gong to get when they took on these jobs, and that is the pension and health care program that they were told they were going to get upon retirement.
This bill should not be changing group four benefits; it should be protecting group four employees from any negative changes. Group four employees should be exempted from any changes to the benefits promised them when hired.
The Massachusetts Coalition of Police respectfully requests that this honorable committee vote House Bill 59 unfavorable.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Kenneth Scanzio, Chairman
Massachusetts Coalition of Police