An advocate for 7500 state workers in higher education suggests the legislative take the offensive instead of–as he characterizes it– retreating from the state’s commitment to its workers.

What appears likely to happen is that the legislature will require future state employees to contribute four percent of their salaries to their pension plans, to work longer to become vested and to work longer to retire with full benefits, a plan that the National Education Association’s Otto Fajen calls a cut in the state’s commitment to its employees who already are below the national average in salary, insurance benefits and pension benefits. He says much of the discussion has overlooked other possibilities. He says the discussion should include going after “low-hanging fruit” that will increase state revenues without involving a general tax increase.

By low-hanging fruit, he means the streamlined sales tax, tax credit reform, changes in the law letting merchants keep part of their sales taxes if they file in a timely way—all things that Fajen says could increase state income without being a general tax increase.

Fajen says a special rush-rush session is no time to be rewriting the state’s pension programs because the issue requires a more comprehensive effort.

Fajen’s observations have generated little interest from state lawmakers,either in terms of raising revenue or slowing down on changing the pension program.

Fajen’s committee testimony 21:44 mp3