CSR defends middle class in SB 1040 opposition

Prior to the Senate Appropriations Retirement Subcommittee’s day-long hearing on SB 1040, the Coalition for Secure Retirement-Michigan (CSR) held a news conference denouncing the legislation for “undermining the retirement security of current and future school retirees and dramatically increasing employee contributions.” MEA is a member of CSR, which represents active and retired school employees, corrections employees and nurses—the middle class.

John Olekszyk, a retired teacher and CSR President said, “Instead of continuing to punish those who educate and care for Michigan’s school children, we need politicians in Lansing to address the root causes of higher health care costs. It is wrong to talk about ‘shared sacrifice’ only to turn around and repeatedly drop the hammer on retirees.”

Gary Olson, former Senate Fiscal Agency Director and a senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, is putting together a study that analyzes the economic aspects of SB 1040. He pointed out that legislators have the wrong perceptions about the retirement system. The study will also address constitutionality questions around the legislation.

“They don’t realize that school employees are already paying for their retirement. The average pension is $20,000. That barely keeps a couple above the poverty line,” Olson said.

Both Olekszyk and Olson also testified at the Subcommittee hearing that SB 1040 attacks the problem using the easiest method—shifting costs.

The news conference also spotlighted several retirees. Jo Byrd, a retired Zeeland teacher and MEA-Retired member, looks at SB 1040 as an attack on teachers, “I made a difference in the world with my teaching, but I still have to live. SB 1040 creates steep hikes in monthly fees that already are high. “