Defined-benefit retirement plans are sustainable
The Seattle Times editorial “Replace public pensions with contribution plan” [Opinion, Feb. 28] is wrong. Defined-benefit retirement plans are sustainable. In fact, a well-designed and properly managed defined-benefit plan is a very effective, cost-efficient benefit with less cost to the taxpayer. In Washington, employees pay 50 percent of the cost, so any risk is shared equally by employees and employers.
The Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters plan (LEOFF) demonstrates how a properly managed pension plan can work for employees, employers and taxpayers. It is fully funded, provides moderate benefits and is not projected to require any increased contributions despite the recent recession. All reputable economic studies have concluded that switching to a 401(k)-type plan simply results in less income for the same amount of money. Secure retirement benefits help to attract and retain competent, dedicated employees and respect retired citizens.
We should focus attention on urging the Legislature to be more responsible in funding our existing public retirement plans and on creating similarly effective plans for private workers. Dismantling secure retirement benefits, such as defined-benefit pensions, not only affects public employees and suppresses benefits for all workers, but it mostly hurts retired citizens by reducing their income. It is our shared responsibility to respect our retired and elderly citizens and to ensure for them the secure retirement they deserve.
–Kenny Stuart, president, Seattle Fire Fighters Union