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Political Threads This section is for Political Threads - Enter at your own risk. If you say you don't want to see what someone posts - don't read it :hihi:

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Old 01-10-2011, 10:14 AM   #1
Jim in CT
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Why can't teachers/cops live with 401(k)'s instead of pensions?

OK, in my town, both the police and teacher contracts are up for renewal. I went to the first meting for each, and asked why these public servants (and that's what they are) cannot live with 401(k)'s instead of pensions.

I used to work as a pension actuary, and my job was telling companies how much they'd save by switching to 401(k)s. The savings is enormous, which is why the entire non-unionized private sector made the switch 15-20 years ago. And we all survived.

At the teachers meeting, the union rep accused me of not caring about children. At the police meeting, the union rep actually asked me "have you ever had to tell a parent that his child was killed?" For the reciord, when I told him yes (from my time in the USMC), he was more than a bit suprised, as his question was meant to stop the conversation.

Here is my take on this. In the private sector, we have to make people want to buy our products/services, and we all know that pensions are so expensive, that there is no way we can pass that cost on to our customers.

In the case of public unionized employees, they don't have that burden. They tell us, buy our product (pay your property taxes) or we seize your house. So they pass on (what to me are) unreasonable expenses.

I have no problem paying taxes so that cops and teachers can get reasonable benefits. I have a huge problem paying exorbitant taxes so that they can cling to insane, antiquated benefits that dwarf anything available to the public which they claim to serve.
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:39 AM   #2
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I agree, I'm all for paying competetive salaries/benefits. I don't have a pension and don't want to pay for someone else to have something I don't have myself. My town has been struggling with the same issues.

The part of pensions that bothers me the most is the how the many pensions are based on only the last 3 years or so of earnings
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:44 AM   #3
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Teacher Unions are the #1 reason why I will do everything I can to keep my kids out of public school from Preschool through high school. I'm not going to get into it again, as I've ranted about it probably half a dozen times.

Teacher Unions are a disservice to the children of America.
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Old 01-10-2011, 11:21 AM   #4
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So JD......are you lumping ALL Public schools together under the same exterme spectrum.

I happen to like the public school system where I live. We have a nice mixture of old and young teachers and a lot of them really do care about the kids. I can e-mail any of them with my concerns and they will get back to me w/ things they can do to help.

I even got in touch w/ my kids Music teacher and he signed on to be a Merit Badge counselor for the kids that he teaches.

My wife and I looked around and checked the school systems of towns in the area before we bought our house here. Are there budget issues.....absolutely. but to assume that because of these that kids aren't going to get a good education is a bit of a stretch.

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Old 01-10-2011, 11:21 AM   #5
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Teacher Unions are the #1 reason why I will do everything I can to keep my kids out of public school from Preschool through high school. I'm not going to get into it again, as I've ranted about it probably half a dozen times.

Teacher Unions are a disservice to the children of America.
We agree 100%. I don't see why you need a union for a bunch of public service employees who have a monopoly.
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Old 01-10-2011, 11:39 AM   #6
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So JD......are you lumping ALL Public schools together under the same exterme spectrum.

I happen to like the public school system where I live. We have a nice mixture of old and young teachers and a lot of them really do care about the kids. I can e-mail any of them with my concerns and they will get back to me w/ things they can do to help.

I even got in touch w/ my kids Music teacher and he signed on to be a Merit Badge counselor for the kids that he teaches.

My wife and I looked around and checked the school systems of towns in the area before we bought our house here. Are there budget issues.....absolutely. but to assume that because of these that kids aren't going to get a good education is a bit of a stretch.
That's a good point. I have great respect for teachers (for the most part), the unions are despicable.
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Old 01-10-2011, 12:03 PM   #7
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So JD......are you lumping ALL Public schools together under the same exterme spectrum.

I happen to like the public school system where I live. We have a nice mixture of old and young teachers and a lot of them really do care about the kids. I can e-mail any of them with my concerns and they will get back to me w/ things they can do to help.

I even got in touch w/ my kids Music teacher and he signed on to be a Merit Badge counselor for the kids that he teaches.

My wife and I looked around and checked the school systems of towns in the area before we bought our house here. Are there budget issues.....absolutely. but to assume that because of these that kids aren't going to get a good education is a bit of a stretch.
Having worked with as a subcontracted percussion instructor at multiple different schools - public and private, yeah I am grouping them all together. There are definitely exceptions, but my repeated negative observations seem to be the rule. I'm not willing to gamble that a school system that is good today, will still be good in 10-12 years and those last 4 years are the only ones that colleges look at.

Ask the handful of people here that have/had kids in the Mansfield School System. 10 years ago, it was a model system for the region in terms of academic, sports and extracurricular performance. But, now that the town isn't printing money like it used to, it has slowly but steadily been wilting. This is definitely not all on the Unions, but the Unions prevent progress from happening, while also causing huge added costs.
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Old 01-10-2011, 03:21 PM   #8
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Most people don't go into teaching for the pension. They go into it for the summer vacation. Seriously, I think most teachers go into it because they really want to help children learn. In order to be in that profession, they have to join the union. Once they're in, they are pretty much committed to whatever the union wants to do. I can't really fault them, but I agree about the pension being an outdated for of a retirement plan.

Conservatism is not about leaving people behind. Conservatism is about empowering people to catch up, to give them tools at their disposal that make it possible for them to access all the hope, all the promise, all the opportunity that America offers. - Marco Rubio
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Old 01-10-2011, 03:26 PM   #9
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These unions are going to be the economic death of RI. Each and every year the unions have their hand out for more taxpayer dollars. While i was up on vacation for Christmas I read a story in the Journal about a Firefighter who was going to retire with 32 years and bring home nearly 66k a year in retirement. WTF is that all about? The taxpayers in RI refuse to do anything about it. Sad but that's the truth.
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Old 01-10-2011, 03:39 PM   #10
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Most people don't go into teaching for the pension. They go into it for the summer vacation. Seriously, I think most teachers go into it because they really want to help children learn. In order to be in that profession, they have to join the union. Once they're in, they are pretty much committed to whatever the union wants to do. I can't really fault them, but I agree about the pension being an outdated for of a retirement plan.
I completely agree with you with regards to why people get into teaching. All of the younger teachers I know are some of the most motivated individuals. After a decade or two of dealing with everyone else's problem kids and realizing that all you have to do is the minimum work expected from you as long as you are not diddling the children, the more veteran teachers stop caring - again, there are exceptions to the rule.

The luxuries of seniority-based power - dead weight be filtered out and teachers that perform above and beyond are not rewarded - gold ribbons and stars outside the Main Office don't count. It is amazing how impossible it is to get rid of bad teachers if they have been teaching for 10-15 years.
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Old 01-10-2011, 03:45 PM   #11
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perform above and beyond are not rewarded
Yup, that's a Union for you. All I've seen them do is save the poor underperformers who should be fired anyway and do nothing for the ones that outperform.
Actually, in labor Unions they make it hard on the “over performers” so that they aren’t too productive. They don’t want someone too over productive to the point that they put a fellow “brother” out of work

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Old 01-10-2011, 04:35 PM   #12
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Seriously, I think most teachers go into it because they really want to help children learn. In order to be in that profession, they have to join the union. Once they're in, they are pretty much committed to whatever the union wants to do. I can't really fault them, but I agree about the pension being an outdated for of a retirement plan.

Pensions are outdated for sure.
There are no sure guarantees that the money will be there even with the PBGC protecting them.
When they're out of money they're out of money.

The way to make the switch over to a 401K fair, would to grandfather the workers
who were hired with a promised pension receive the pension but offer a 401 k for them
going forward. New hires would only have a 401 k pension plan.

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Old 01-10-2011, 04:45 PM   #13
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That's a good point. I have great respect for teachers (for the most part), the unions are despicable.
The reason you need unions is because rather than parents taking the blame because their kids are not applying themselves, especially at home, they want to blame teachers who can only control for the most part what happens in the classroom. When I was in HS you had kids that went home and studied, did their homework and excelled. More often then not their parents were heavily involved with what the kids did after school. On the other hand you had the kids who showed up, caused distractions, never studied or did homework and barely got by because the parents never pushed or helped their kids. In these times they want to blame the teacher for this,and use incentive based pay, now do you think that is fair? You could be the best teacher in the world, and still have a student who just is never gonna get it, and you as a teacher should not be punished for it. As far as pensions go, they should be phased put , not outright taken away. Are 401k really that much better in the long run for employees, or are they better for the employers? AFAIW most pension pay outs are guaranteed, your 401k is not, just ask the hundreds of thousands who were looking forward to retiring recently on their 401k's, and had to put those plans on the back burner.

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Old 01-10-2011, 04:58 PM   #14
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I completely agree with you with regards to why people get into teaching. All of the younger teachers I know are some of the most motivated individuals. After a decade or two of dealing with everyone else's problem kids and realizing that all you have to do is the minimum work expected from you as long as you are not diddling the children, the more veteran teachers stop caring - again, there are exceptions to the rule.
JD, I don't think they stop caring, but depending on where they teach,
they get tired of wiping kids noses, trying to motivate unmotivated students
and doing the disciplining that the parents should be doing.
Throw in uncooperative parents who don't take an interest in their kids, or the opposite where the parents think their kids are right and the teachers wrong and they get

Being a good teacher requires cooperation from the home.

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Old 01-10-2011, 05:25 PM   #15
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JD,

You are becoming a liberal as we speak...expecting above and beyond performance to be rewarded. I thought it was rewarded every two weeks when they get a paycheck and are allowed to continue working?
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:24 PM   #16
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JD,

You are becoming a liberal as we speak...expecting above and beyond performance to be rewarded. I thought it was rewarded every two weeks when they get a paycheck and are allowed to continue working?
Huh? How about this... throw out the word "reward". There is no incentive to do more than the absolute minimum because there will never be additional compensation or opportunity for pay raises for stellar performance. A pat on the back doesn't cut it.

I'm not sure how thinking that people who outperform in the workplace should be compensated better and given more opportunities than those that due the minimum is a liberal ideology. Union-style status-quo is a more liberal position by treating everyone the same.
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Old 01-10-2011, 08:06 PM   #17
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I had 2 shop teachers from my high school (blue hills vo tech)
Both of them would be hitting the bottle every day, one of them it was so obvious as he would turn bright red like santa clause !
I was told some years ago that one of them retired on a 100% disability plus his pension.
He claimed students caused him to become an alcoholic so his union felt he should get 100% disability plus his pension !
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Old 01-10-2011, 08:10 PM   #18
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Dictatorship of the Proletariat....

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Old 01-10-2011, 08:20 PM   #19
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I had 2 shop teachers from my high school (blue hills vo tech)
Both of them would be hitting the bottle every day, one of them it was so obvious as he would turn bright red like santa clause !
I was told some years ago that one of them retired on a 100% disability plus his pension.
He claimed students caused him to become an alcoholic so his union felt he should get 100% disability plus his pension !
so it was your fault!

What did you do to him?

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Old 01-10-2011, 08:40 PM   #20
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Because your elected officials have no balls to bring it to a vote to put city or state workers on a 401K

I have talked to several councillors to do away with pension plans and put the city on 401 K's after a certain date. Keep the present workers on a pension, any new workers hired after starting in 2013 go on their own 401k, the older workers will die off reducing people on a pension.
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Old 01-10-2011, 09:54 PM   #21
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Keep the present workers on a pension, any new workers hired after starting in 2013 go on their own 401k, the older workers will die off reducing people on a pension.
That doesn't reduce the pension demand until they all die off. With today's life expectancies that coul dbe a while. What it does do is require future generations to continue paying for the misdeeds of today's leaders.

Everyone keeps electing these officials who make sweetheart deals and then expect them to find a way to back out of the agreement. I agree that the going forward approach is plausible. However, I wonder how many of those on this thread who speak ill of the workers are willing to sit back and allow someone to blatently cancel an agreement that they had. Let the bank call in your mortgage for no reason and see how fast they claim the rules were changed fo rno reason.

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Old 01-11-2011, 09:50 AM   #22
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Let the bank call in your mortgage for no reason and see how fast they claim the rules were changed fo rno reason.

...
Chesepeake Bill, I am not saying we need to kill pensions "for no reason". Many towns and states, which already have insane tax rates, have no chance of meeting these obligations. So you tell me, what's the choice? Does everyone in the private sector have to work 75 hours a week, so that cops can retire at 45 years old, with a guaranteed pension for life?

I don't blame the cop for the fact that politicians (who only cared about getting the union vote) had no business making that deal. But the fact is, governments don't have nearly enough money to fund those benefits. That's the harsh reality.

Your insinuation that I suggest cutting back is "for no reason" is insulting and deeply offensive. My "reason" is that I don't want to pay $15,000 a year in property taxes for a 3 bedroom house on half an acre. For my house, my current property tax bill of $8,000 feels like more than enough. If municipal employees cannot find a way to live within that level of revenue, that greed shouldn't be forced upon me and my family. Public service is not supposed to be a guaranteed path to wealth and comfort. If cops and teachers want to be wealthy, let them earn it in the private sector.

I respect cops and teachers. However, their financial security is not more important to society than my own financial security.

In another post, someone suggested that teachers would all leave the profession if they did away with pensions. FAT CHANCE. I'd like to see tenured teachers hack it in the private sector, where you have to earn your job every single day, work more hours for significantly less benefits, and not get a raise unless you worked for it.
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Old 01-11-2011, 10:24 AM   #23
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In another post, someone suggested that teachers would all leave the profession if they did away with pensions. FAT CHANCE. I'd like to see tenured teachers hack it in the private sector, where you have to earn your job every single day, work more hours for significantly less benefits, and not get a raise unless you worked for it.
My in-laws both worked for the public sector (Teacher and City Attorney). My wife and I work for in the private sector. My in-laws cannot fathom the fact that we have to travel for work from time to time and be away from home. They've told us they would never do that when they were working and think it's crazy (obviously they are a little old school). They also can't understand that my wife and I work more than "9 to 5" hours. Work issued Black Berries so that you can be contacted at any time are another thing they can’t understand.

On the flip side, they are retired and have a great pension and great Health coverage from the State. I don't want them to lose any of that and since they are retired, I don’t think that should be taken away from them. My point is that the private and public sector are different in many ways. I think it’s gotten a bit out of control and the public sector has a lot of “perks” that are taken for granted that are now expected. As I posted on another thread, it is not sustainable as the only way pensions and high percentages of health coverage can be paid is to continue to increase taxes. The Government isn’t in business to make money and profit so you can’t compare or compete salaries with the private sector.

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Old 01-11-2011, 10:40 AM   #24
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Jim,

It surely isn't a path to wealth. I did not mean to insult. Merely to point out that the deals these workers get are long term contractual agreements. I will not defend those who made them because, like you, I think they were shortsighted acts to merely gain votes. I do, however, feel we need to honor those agreements and find a go-forward approach. If that means negotiating a 401K buy-out then I am all for it. My name should give some indication that I line in the People's Republic of Maryland where we are beset with high taxes as well. My tax bill is slightly worse than your stated amount. Like you, I don't want to see it go up any more than it has to.

Bill
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Old 01-11-2011, 10:55 AM   #25
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Jim,

It surely isn't a path to wealth. I did not mean to insult. Merely to point out that the deals these workers get are long term contractual agreements. I will not defend those who made them because, like you, I think they were shortsighted acts to merely gain votes. I do, however, feel we need to honor those agreements and find a go-forward approach. If that means negotiating a 401K buy-out then I am all for it. My name should give some indication that I line in the People's Republic of Maryland where we are beset with high taxes as well. My tax bill is slightly worse than your stated amount. Like you, I don't want to see it go up any more than it has to.

Bill
"It surely isn't a path to wealth"

Yes, it surely is...at least here in CT it is...

My 2 best friends are a married couple who are public teachers in CT. They are each 41 years old, they have each been working for 17 years with masters degrees. Their combined income is about $160,000, and of course on top of that, they get insane healthcare and retirement benefits. You'd have to make a lot more that $160,000 in the private sector to equal their purchasing power, because of their benefits. In most towns in CT, public teachers can earn more than $85,000, and again, with ridiculous benefits. Also, here in CT, teachers don't participate in Social Security, which is a huge benefit. I wish I could have my social security taxes given back to me, because as it is, I pay into social security, and I don't expect to get much back (I'm 41 years old). That alone is a huge, huge benefit.

My only first cousin is a police officer. He started at age 21 in the city of New Haven, worked for 23 years, retired with a full pension ($paying $62,000 a year, for the rest of his life) at AGE 44. Then, he took a job as a detective in another town. So between his paycheck and his pension, he makes about $130,000.

In my opinion, those 2 situations represent wealthy folks. In my opinion, both of those scenarios are indescribably crazy, totally irrational, completely fiscally irresponsible, and not sustainable.

I'm not saying I want to pull the rug out from underneath those who are too close to retirement to make changes. But we need to cut back on benefits for those workers who are young enouogh to absorb the change. Again, everyone in the private sector went through the same exact switch 20 years ago, and we all managed to survive somehow.

As for the contracts...you will see some governmengts (towns or states) file bankruptcy in the next couple of years, which gives them legal recourse to re-negotiate the contracts.
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Old 01-11-2011, 11:14 AM   #26
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Defined benefit plans (where the risk of payment is borne by the employer) are things of the past.

With exploding plan costs (thank you Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke) and sharply lower investment returns (thank you Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke), more employers, be it private sector or public sector, are providing defined contribution pensions (where the risk is borne by the beneficiary).

State and municipal governments are feeling pain, with tax revenues down. States are feeling the squeeze because income taxes are down (pervasive unemployment). Municipalities are in pain because assessed home values, and therefore property taxes are down (housing bubble popping, foreclosures, pervasive unemployment).

Revenues are down, and at the same time the cost to pay into pensions and post-retirement healthcare plans is spiking. Unfortunately, since the states can't print money to pay their bills like the U.S. gov't can, states have to cut expenses.

You will likely see, especially this year, an acceleration in state and local layoffs and even benefit curtailments.

Unfortunately, that's just how the math is working out.

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Old 01-11-2011, 11:15 AM   #27
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Also, here in CT, teachers don't participate in Social Security, which is a huge benefit. I wish I could have my social security taxes given back to me, because as it is, I pay into social security, and I don't expect to get much back (I'm 41 years old). That alone is a huge, huge benefit.

...

As for the contracts...you will see some governmengts (towns or states) file bankruptcy in the next couple of years, which gives them legal recourse to re-negotiate the contracts.
With regards to SS tax, the teachers in my area pay into a separate fund with a rate that (if I remember correctly, probably am not though) equals the SS tax rate.

Concerning the town contracts, it is only a matter of time before towns realize firing everyone and subcontracting all of it to private entities is the best course of action.
Maywood, California Fires All Town Employees, Outsources Everything: An Act Of 'Municipal Genius'?

Mansfield for example has two full time public works employees that spend half their day watching soap operas and playing cards. I know because a kid I graduated with landed one of the jobs making good money, earning towards his pension, good beni's... great for him, terrible for the rest of us. It is absolutely insane.
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Old 01-11-2011, 11:33 AM   #28
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Revenues are down, and at the same time the cost to pay into pensions and post-retirement healthcare plans is spiking. Unfortunately, since the states can't print money to pay their bills like the U.S. gov't can, states have to cut expenses.

You will likely see, especially this year, an acceleration in state and local layoffs and even benefit curtailments.

Unfortunately, that's just how the math is working out.
"states have to cut expenses"

Here in CT, there have been no signicant cuts (maybe this year). I don't know that state spending has ever decreased from year to year. Our elected officials have decided to "fix" the problem by raising taxes, because God forbid someone have the guts to stand up to the unions and be honest. I wonder if our politicians are literally unaware that there are 2 ways to addess this problem, one being that you cut spending. The other, raising taxes, that they're well aware of...
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Old 01-11-2011, 11:35 AM   #29
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With regards to SS tax, the teachers in my area pay into a separate fund with a rate that (if I remember correctly, probably am not though) equals the SS tax rate.

Concerning the town contracts, it is only a matter of time before towns realize firing everyone and subcontracting all of it to private entities is the best course of action.
Maywood, California Fires All Town Employees, Outsources Everything: An Act Of 'Municipal Genius'?

Mansfield for example has two full time public works employees that spend half their day watching soap operas and playing cards. I know because a kid I graduated with landed one of the jobs making good money, earning towards his pension, good beni's... great for him, terrible for the rest of us. It is absolutely insane.
"With regards to SS tax, the teachers in my area pay into a separate fund with a rate that (if I remember correctly, probably am not though) equals the SS tax rate."

Do you know what kind of return they get on those contributions? I read that baby-boomers will ee about a 1.9% average annual return on what they paid into social security, which is a lousy rate of return. My generation will pay more and receive less, so there's no way I'll break even. That teacher fund you referred to probbaly returns teachers 35% a year, guaranteed.
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Old 01-11-2011, 12:25 PM   #30
Fly Rod
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We all had the opprotunity to work for the town, city state or federal, instead we chose the private sector. I was offered a job on three occasions and refused, would have started with four weeks paid vacation and credited with four years towards retirement but, I chose the private sector, had worked out great for me.

Jim
I do not know what your property is assessed for but, I'm assessed for 450,000 and pay about 4,200 in property taxes. If your property is assessed around the same maybe you should think about moving to Cape Ann, great fishing, nice beaches and only 2.5 hours to ski country.
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