DelMarVa Municipalities Need to Act on Pension Reform

While Scranton, PA has been forced to reduce city worker salaries to minimum wage and San Bernadino, CA is the latest city to file for bankruptcy, cities and counties on the Delmarva peninsula continue to behave as if economic reality will never cross the Chesapeake Bay or jump the C&D canal.  As the population ages and more Delmarva taxpayers rely on fixed incomes, no municipality seems willing to acknowledge that future pension and medical costs simply cannot be funded forever.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in Wicomico County.

In 2011 the Wicomico County Council passed County Executive Rick Pollitt’s “early retirement” plan.  Under this boondoggle certain county employees have received larger pensions than they would have otherwise received.  In addition, others (such as the county’s former Public Information Officer) will receive lifetime medical benefits after only 5 years of service.  When this plan was adopted the council promised that they would look into reforming the county’s pension system.  While councilman Bob Culver has asked multiple times that the council fulfill their commitment to the voters, a majority has refused.

This year, the Wicomico Council used the Jim Mathias / Norm Conway / Rudy Cane mandated property tax hike to dole out raises to all county employees.  These raises increase the county’s future pension liabilities.  Maryland county governments are now on the hook for teacher pensions as well.

Pension and retiree medical benefits are the stealth costs which are bankrupting municipalities and crippling local economies across the country.  Our local governments don’t wish to address these issues because it’s too easy to ignore the problem and leave it for future generations (and future councils / commissioners) to address.  When local governments acknowledge that a problem exists, it can only be fixed by HUGE tax hikes, HEAVY benefit cuts, and often BANKRUPTCY.

These problems are easy to fix NOW.  Our local governments should do the responsible thing and ACT NOW.  Obviously, the states of Delaware, Maryland, and (and to a less extent) Virginia should act to reform their pension systems as well.  Unfortunately, we have no hope that these governments will act responsibly in the near future.

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Comments

  1. Frank Nolquist says:

    The council always does the same thing – RAISE TAXES! No one wants to be unpopular and cut somebody’s program. Bennett Middle is an example of the mentality of spending into oblivion. Meals on Wheels is a joke. Since when was it the government’s job to feed people?

    • Anonymous says:

      I can’t believe you are criticizing Meals on Wheels. When the day arrives that we can’t help feed our seniors who might otherwise go without, that’s the day we should all hang our heads in shame. Frank, I hope you never have a hungry day in your life, but let’s not take our selfcenteredness to new heights. Feeding the poor is an honorable calling and I for one am glad to see my government step up to help in this humanitarian effort. Where is your compassion?

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