Chair Talk

January 2015

I hope everyone had great holidays. I also hope that you are staying warm in these frigid winter temperatures.

A brief update containing an outline of the history of the Okrie v State of Michigan lawsuit has been posted on the SERA website. Attorney Supanich is waiting on his Leave to Appeal application to the Supreme Court. He expects to get the Supreme Court’s decision on the Leave application in early 2015. As soon as a decision is made we will get that information distributed.

The Michigan Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on 2 cases that affect state employees and possibly state retirees. One case involves the Right to Work law that was passed in 2013 and its effect on the Civil Service Commission Rules and the other involves the 4% that state employees have paid toward their retirement. Mary Pollock and I will be in attendance for those oral arguments.

In reviewing legislative news on the internet Mary had noted that modification of the pension tax was not among the bargaining items being discussed as part of the road fix despite virtually all the Democratic candidate’s fall campaign rhetoric decrying the elimination of the tax exemption for pensions. Mary and I conferred and decided to send this message to the Governor and Legislative leaders:

“In a straw poll of the delegates to the Michigan State Employees Retirement Association Coordinating Council from 21 chapters all over the state on November 7, they overwhelmingly opposed gasoline tax and vehicle registration fee increases and would rather see a general sales tax increase to support road and bridge improvements be put on the ballot.

Our younger retirees affected by the changes in the pension tax exemption want some relief from this unexpected incursion into their income. It is our belief that a ‘roads fix’ that includes gasoline tax and vehicle registration increases and/or a ballot issue on raising the sales tax would garner more senior support and votes if it included some measure of change in the pension tax exemption. We urge you to include pension tax relief in any roads fix funding plan.”

It took a 21-hour session on the last day of lame duck to pass all the measures in the road fix deal. Unfortunately, modification of the pension tax was not part of it and there was no independent movement on the several bills modifying the pension tax.

Editor’s note: Bob Kopasz is Chair of the Michigan SERA Council. He may be reached at P.O. Box 692, Mt. Morris, MI 48458; phone 810/240-8380.