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Lawmakers push against O'Malley's pension plan

Friday - 1/20/2012, 4:51pm  ET

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O'Malley's plan for teacher pensions has met opposition in Montgomery County. (AP)

Kate Ryan, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Montgomery County lawmakers say they understand times are tough, but Gov. Martin O'Malley's making it tougher on their constituents with a plan to shift half the cost of teacher pensions to the counties.

Teachers are technically state employees and for decades, the state has picked up the cost of their pensions. In Montgomery County, the cost of teacher pensions for fiscal 2013 has been calculated to be about $168 million.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has called the move to pass half the cost of pensions on to cash-strapped counties a "non-starter," and has likened it to telling counties to pick their poison.

Former Maryland Delegate Craig Rice, who served on the House Ways and Means Committee and is now a member of the Montgomery County Council, agrees.

Rice says passing the cost on to the county at a time when it faces its own shortfall of $135 million is particularly difficult. Couple that with the governor's proposal to cap tax deductions for those earning $100,000 and up, and Rice says it's a plan the localities can't swallow.

"Something like this truly does ultimately bankrupt the county," he says.

Rice, a Democrat, says it's "kind of scary" that he'd be in a position agreeing with statements made by Maryland Republicans like Senator E.J. Pipkin and Delegate Anthony O'Donnell, who've said the governor's proposed budget hurts middle-class families and small businesses.

O'Malley's office supplied figures that show Montgomery County could actually walk away with an additional $18 million through the move. But Rice says that number is is based on funding formulas in bills that "have no way of passing."

"These are things that are playing shell games at this point," he says.

Leggett and Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner went to Annapolis Friday to talk to members of the county delegation and see where compromises could be reached.

Leggett says he understands the governor has a tough job ahead with a $1 billion shortfall, but that the state's deficit cannot be worked out by hitting the counties so hard.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)