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Top Republican legislators and Snyder – Inches from Deal on Teacher Retirement

Craft in America: Teachers
Courtesy of Craft in America

Top lawmakers in the state Legislature have reached a tentative agreement with Governor Rick Snyder about changes to the state’s teacher retirement system.

House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) and Senate Majority Leader Meekhof (R-West Olive) have been aggressively pursuing a plan to shut down the state’s hybrid pension and 401k system. Meekhof and Leonard want to put all new hires into a 401k plan.

The new system is similar to the current one – except new hires would automatically be steered into the 401(k) unless they opt for a plan with a pension component. A spokesperson for Governor Snyder says they are also looking to make the 401(k) option more attractive to teachers.

Snyder says he’s pleased with the compromise. The standoff with GOP leaders was holding up completion of the new state budget.

“I believe it’s a good, solid package that we worked on in a very collaborative, thoughtful fashion,” he said, “and it will be good for school employees and for Michigan taxpayers.” 

Governor Snyder is a licensed CPA who opposed an earlier proposal by the GOP leaders. He said it would cost too much to make the changes Republican legislators were calling for.

As to specifics on the plan, Speaker Leonard was vague.

The information will be out there for you all to be able to see, I’m not ganna put a timeline on it,” he said. “It would be out there for you to see and review. There will be adequate hearings. And it will be done the right way.”

But Democrats say they’ve been left out of the negotiations. House Minority Leader Sam Singh said he hasn’t been invited to any meetings.

“Why wouldn’t you bring all the voices to the table,” he said. “And it’s a shame that they’ve only decided to bring Republican voices at this point in time.”


Leonard said he’s willing to have bipartisan discussions, but says Democrats haven’t brought, quote “real solutions.”

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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