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Ohio House sets pension hearings

August 10, 2012
Salem News

Ohio's five public employee retirement systems have a combined unfunded liability of more than $66 billion. That is more than $5,700 for each resident of the Buckeye State.

Officials of the funds, providing benefits for teachers, law enforcement officers, state agency employees and others, have devised proposals to get their finances back on even keels. Some of those ideas have been implemented but most require approval from the General Assembly.

State senators already have approved a package of bills meant to shore up the pension programs' long-term outlooks. But leaders in the state House of Representatives have hesitated, insisting they need more information.

Perhaps they are sincere in wanting to act only on the best available intelligence about the funds. Still, the timing is suspicious. At one point there was speculation House action might have to wait until after the November election.

That would be convenient for incumbent legislators who don't want to lose votes from tens of thousands of public employees who may be called upon to make sacrifices to get their pension programs in order.

Now, hearings on the issue have been scheduled in the House. They are to be held later this month, with the goal of getting the reform packages to votes by September.

Good. Every day that passes builds up new unfunded liabilities. Members of the House should approve reforms as quickly as possible.

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Democrats and Republicans share blame for the nation's staggering debt, soon to top $16 trillion. But because their party controls the White House now, few Democrats in Congress seem anxious about deficit spending.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is an exception. On Sept. 10 he will do an enormous service to those who understand spending beyond our nation's means simply has to stop.

On that day, at the state Culture Center in Charleston, Manchin will host an event of national significance. He has arranged for a "bipartisan federal fiscal summit" to include former Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.

The two chaired a national commission that recommended ways of reducing the debt. Few of its ideas were implemented.

By refocusing attention on the debt and the need to address it, Manchin, Bowles and Simpson will remind Americans of the major political, economic and social issue of our time - and that delay in addressing it has serious consequences. How serious? Consider: When the Bowles-Simpson commission began its work in April 2010, the national debt was less than $13 trillion. Debt growth at that rate is a clear and present danger to Americans.

 
 

 

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