All Aboard the "Pension Express"!
Veto Override Vote Tomorrow
on the Teachers Union "Early Retirement Bill"

State House News Service

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON ... TEACHER RETIREMENT VETO: Another important bill has already traveled to Cellucci's desk twice and this week may become law over his objections. The bill offers public school teachers enhanced pension benefits for retiring early. Cellucci and local officials worry that 8,000 veteran teachers could take advantage of the offer initially and that thousands more may follow them out of the classrooms in the next few years when some worry about a teacher shortage.

And they worry even more about the effect the measure will have on retirement plans of other public employee groups seeking the same benefit and citing fairness. Firefighters and other groups of employees have sought early retirement benefits for years, but lawmakers have generally resisted. Now, some fear the floodgates will open up.

Fiscal watchdogs warn that the teacher bill will cost tens of millions of dollars and, if other groups win similar benefits, it could break the bank.

Supporters of the bill take issue with Cellucci's numbers and peg the retirements expected immediately at between 2,500 and 3,000. They argue that young teachers bring welcomed enthusiasm and energy to classrooms. Last month, the governor sent the bill back with a proposed amendment. Rather than offer veteran teachers a better pension deal, the governor's proposal would have instead held out bonuses for those who remain at their desks. No one in the 160-member House objected to rejecting his amendment on a simple voice vote, indicating unanimous consent.

In the Senate, there was no effort to even place Cellucci's amendment before the body. When it was returned to his desk, Cellucci vetoed the bill outright and it is now up to legislators to override that veto. A two-thirds vote is required in each branch. The House has scheduled its veto override vote for Tuesday.

The Sun
Lowell, Mass.
Wednesday, June 14, 2000

Back the veto

Before our area legislators vote to override Gov. Paul Cellucci's veto of the teacher early-retirement bill they should reflect for a moment as to whom they're representing on Beacon Hill.

After they've done so, legislators can come to no other conclusion than that Cellucci is right in his quest to keep good teachers in the classroom.

Offering teachers an incentive to retire at the same time it's predicted that the state will face a teacher shortage is the worst form of political pandering to a special interest.

We don't doubt that voting for the early retirement bill is the best politically --it will curry favor with the powerful teachers union. But it will be at the expense of schoolchildren.

The governor has been willing to accept the slings and arrows of the union, and if his veto is upheld, he will be their whipping boy. But by doing so, he is demonstrating the type of leadership that the voters expected when they elected him.

He has refused to trade moral currency for political gain. His veto is courageous, and legislators should uphold it.

The Sun
Lowell, Mass.
Saturday, June 17, 2

On the Pension Express

The gravy train has pulled into Beacon Hill Station fattened with lobbyists pushing a sweet early retirement deal for the Commonwealth's veteran teachers.

But wait, who's that jumpin' on board?

Faster than you can say "What happened to the $7.4 billion?", as in the $7.4 billion spent in Massachusetts schools since the enactment of the 1993 Education Reform Act, lobbyists for the firefighters, police and every other public employee union are bellying up for a ticket to ride.

They figure if weary, overworked teachers can get an early out with swollen benefits, why can't their union clients?"Choooo! Choooo! All aboard!," cry the union lobbyists, many of whom have ridden these rails before.

Bob McCarthy, conductor for the Firefighters' Express, (as in president of the 13,000-member Professional Firefighters Association) of Massachusetts), said, "I would like to see something move, seeing where the teachers are getting theirs now. It makes sense that if they do it for one group, there's going to be pressure from other employees."

If you're a public employee, you don't want to miss this trip on the Pension Pork Line through Beacon Hill Station, a kind of party place where Soave-swilling Democrats control the Legislature and, quite often, the Martini-sipping Republicans.

And if you're a taxpayer, this is a bullet-train straight to your pocketbook.

Gov. Paul Cellucci could see this coming. Six days ago, he threw the brakes on the Legislature's teacher retirement bill with a level-headed veto. At the time, he said the legislation would cost taxpayers a bundle in extra benefits and leave schools hard-pressed to find replacement teachers.

There's already a shortage of teachers, and Cellucci warned that an incentive-laden retirement bill would make the situation worse.

The governor, however, is only one man battling a Legislature that owns the track. Democratic leaders, with stowaway Republicans in the caboose, promise to punch the teachers' ticket with an override. Let's see how much our area state senators and representatives think of the taxpayers when the veto override comes before them. If the override is successful, firefighters, police and other public employees will storm the Club Car in a lobbying frenzy.

And that being the case, the gravy train becomes a runaway.

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