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Threat of benefit cuts draws protest from police, fire

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Captiol Building, Lansing, Michigan

Police officers, fire fighters, and other municipal employees are planning what they are titling a “call to action” Tuesday at the state Capitol.

Lawmakers are holding a second hearing on a series of bills that would cut health benefits for municipal retirees like police officers and fire fighters. The bills would aggressively scale back retiree health benefits in cities with high unfunded liability costs. 

Proponents of the legislation say the current retiree health benefits system is not sustainable and the legislation is necessary to prevent local governments from potentially going bankrupt down the road.

Ed Jacques is the director of member services for the Police Officers Association of Michigan.  He said attacking police and firefighters, among other municipal employees, is not the way to solve the problem.

“Because of their financial irresponsibility, it’s terribly unfair to pass a law that says your collective bargaining agreement means nothing,” he said.

Several municipal organizations are planning to be at the Capitol to discuss the legislation. Jacques said a part of their plan is to increase their presence and talk to lawmakers.

Jacques said, “We’re gonna have our lobbyists there, we’re gonna have our leadership there to direct our members to go in and if necessary pull some of these Representatives out of session and have a discussion with them.”

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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