Even Public Workers Know Ailing Cities Need to Change Their Benefits Systems

Earlier today, Reason Foundation Polling Director Emily Ekins highlighted Americans’ unwillingness to bail out Detroit from its financial woes, with 65 percent opposed.

Reason-Rupe PollReason-Rupe PollThe latest Reason-Rupe poll also delved in further into how the public perceives municipal budget problems and how to fix them. In short, the majority polled don’t want higher taxes or reduced services – not really a surprise. But majorities do want cities to deal with financial problems by reducing benefits for public employees or requiring them to contribute more into their own benefits. A majority of public sector employees – 67 percent – also agree that they need to be paying more into their own benefits. A full 45 percent of public sector employees say their own benefits should be reduced. Obviously not a majority, but that’s a pretty high number.

The majority of those polled – 70 percent – also believe new public sector employees should be shifted over to 401(k)-style savings programs rather than defined-benefit pension programs. Even a majority of public sector employees, 59 percent, want new employees to be shifted away from pensions.

These numbers are interesting because they diverge significantly from what cities are actually doing in the midst of financial crises. In November’s issue of Reason magazine, we’ll be looking at five cities in bad fiscal shape (bankrupt Detroit and San Bernardino, Calif., among them). But beyond just those five cities, current trends nationwide show pension reform ranking about last in tactics municipalities are using to cut spending. This is according to a survey of municipalities by the National League of Cities of city fiscal conditions for 2012 (pdf). A city employee was more likely to be laid off entirely over the past couple of years than have his or her pensions reduced.

Reason-Rupe pollReason-Rupe pollBut thanks to the significant amount of work done to memorialize these benefits through the passage of laws lobbied for by powerful public sector unions, pensions and health benefits have also proven to be the hardest to reform. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown (certainly no enemy of the unions) managed to push through modest reforms that increased the retirement age, put a cap on payouts, and required greater contributions by employees. All of this was just for new hires, not existing workers. Nevertheless, the federal government is intervening, cutting off transportation funding because these rollbacks violate a federal rule demanding a state preserve transportation employees’ rights to collective bargaining in order to receive federal money. So now the state is working on an exemption from this pension reform that applies only to transportation workers. One can imagine what the other unions are going to do in response.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...also believe new public sector employees should be shifted over to 401(k)-style savings programs rather than defined-benefit pension programs.

    Ha, oh yes, they're always okay with screwing over the new union members.

  • Loki||

    As long as they've got theirs, who cares?

    "Fuck those young little whippersnappers! Fuck 'em good, sorry little ingrates!" - old people

  • barc4d||

    This is actually the best job Ive had. I work at Home with Google. I've made $64,000 so far this year working online and I'm a full time student. Moreover, My Uncle Carson got a stunning gold Porsche Cayenne Hybrid only from working part time off a pc. Official website www.Pow6.com

  • SomeGuy||

    yea i really do hate that my wife is getting fucked as a teacher because she is new and the old fuckers basically stole her money....damn do i hate people

  • Paul.||

    Well, yes. Your choice: everyone gets a benefit cut, or we craft a plan where the new hires get a haircut on their benefits but the established fat cats keep their pile of loot... it's an easy choice. Reason could do a poll.

  • ||

    We got to keep the pensions we had earned then went to 401k.

    I have no problem with this.

  • Winston||

    Shouldn't this blog be renamed Poll'N'Run?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Shouldn't you mind your own business?

  • Jake W||

    What's up your ass? Sheesh

  • Sevo||

    ..."In California, Gov. Jerry Brown (certainly no enemy of the unions) managed to push through modest reforms"...

    IOWs, he's only behind the curve at a 90% rate, having pushed and signed the Dill Act.
    Screw moonbeam.

  • PapayaSF||

    Hey, let's be thankful that a politician is willing to acknowledge and undo even part of the damage he did, instead of doubling down.

  • TKList||

    Time to do this, that and the other thing. We can start with eliminating local, state and federal public unions.
    http://www.reddit.com/r/USToDoList/

  • Sevo||

    "We can start with eliminating local, state and federal public unions."

    Nope. A-1.
    We just have to make sure our representatives are under no compulsion to negotiate with them.
    You, public worker, are welcome to unionize. I, as taxpayer rep am welcome to hire someone else and fire you.
    Don't bother claiming it's impossible; whatever Reagan's faults, he did just that.

  • larry hammond||

    Why should public sector employees get to join a union. Even D's thought it a bad idea prior to 1960. It would be a lot of work to make them illegal, but then it would be done. Your path makes officials at every level have to have a backbone and maintain it over successive administrations. Just ban public sector unions and move one to the next topic.

  • OBD2 Scanner||

    The majority of those polled – 70 percent – also believe new public sector employees should be shifted over to 401(k)-style savings programs rather than defined-benefit pension programs. Even a majority of public sector employees, 59 percent, want new employees to be shifted away from pensions.

  • tydas||

    The debate should be over total compensation and not benefits, it’s an easy calculation..we cannot get into a trap where we under compensate these people and then bitch when services suffer because we cannot attract talented people.
    And also, these polls you keep putting up are next to worthless…I had thought this site might actually be looking at facts and use reason to address our issues but it looks like your nothing but another conservative hack site.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Oh, our services are already suffering under the massively obese public-employee compensation system which pays the talented people to do unnecessary, counter-productive, make-work jobs. Pay more and more and more, the talented people will go to government.

    The polls that reflected an overwhelming opposition to Obama's Syria invasion were worthless too, in your opinion?

  • tydas||

    Come one, what kind of statement is that, sounds like a very un-reasonable thing to say..does what you say exist? i'm sure it does, but at what scale?

    Anyway, if you want something to write a story about i'm sure polls are a good idea...for Syria, should we attack, its probably a bad idea..but then again i'm sure the public supported iraq and afghan attacks as well and they were the worst ideas ever...

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Sound and rational minds prevailed, at least temporarily, in the case of Syria. It is a positive sign (due to the recent revelations by whistle-blowers) that Americans are questioning the veracity of the "leaders".

    Unreasonable? Does it exist? You answered your own question.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    "i'm sure it does, but at what scale"

    Well, c'mon now, haven't you been following the news about bankrupt major cities? You know what dealt them the final crushing blow, right?

    Of course all of those wars were and are bad ideas. Yet the amoral, yet talented and extremely overpaid government workers at the State and Defense Departments keep pushing for more. Bad ideas impoverish taxpayers while those same workers retire young with six-figure pensions.

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