by Clyde Weiss | April 12, 2012
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is cutting back and privatizing public services in his state, slashing jobs and undermining the pensions of the dedicated workers who remain – all to solve a budget crisis caused by his friends on Wall Street. And even though Jindal is a public employee, he and the state legislators who receive state pensions have exempted themselves from their latest anti-worker pension reform plan they’re pushing.
Under his plan, politicians would raid the paychecks of current workers to balance the budget, forcing them to contribute 3 percent more to the retirement fund (a 40 percent increase). In addition, workers would have to wait until they are 67 to retire with full benefits if they’re younger than 55 now, and would see their monthly retirement checks cut due to other formula changes.
Jindal is likely to violate his own state’s constitution if he carries through with that plan to re-jigger the state’s public pension system, concludes a law firm hired by the state’s Legislative Auditor’s office.
“The reforms are constitutional,” insisted Jindal’s spokesman, Kyle Plotkin.
“Jindal will do anything he can to further his political career at the expense of our communities,” says Leonal Hardman, president of AFSCME Council 17. “This governor needs to know that we aren’t going to let him build a career on the backs on citizens, taxpayers and the middle class in this state.”
Pensions are just one part of the problem. Jindal is eliminating the vital public services that keep Louisianians healthy and safe at the worst possible time. Health care, social services and corrections agencies are the biggest losers, according to this report in The Advocate.
Jindal is certainly not alone. The elections of 2010 swept in a wave of anti-worker, anti-middle class governors in states around the country. But workers in Louisiana have been dealing with one of their own for five years.
During that time, Council 17 members have fought his plans to privatize prisons and cut services. They’ve built coalitions, rallied at the Capitol, called their legislators and spoken before religious and community groups to get the message out about how Jindal’s policies hurt everyone. Later this month, they’ll speak out again when they lobby their representatives at the Capitol.
The fact is, public workers’ pensions did not cause the economic problems that Jindal is now trying to fix by breaking the state’s commitment to its workers. It’s time to acknowledge that it’s a revenue problem – not a spending problem. The solution is simple enough. But Jindal would rather endanger public safety and balance the budget on the backs of working families in order to enrich his corporate donors.