Securing the Future

If you walk around Lansing, you’ll see many people who make important decisions and appear daily in the newspaper. “Hello, senator.” “Good morning, your honor.” “There’s the governor’s chief of staff.”

There are others in town who don’t hold positions of power, whose opinions and attention are not highly sought after. For example, a man in an MSU sweater can usually be seen panhandling on the corner of Washington and Allegan. He has a technique of approaching motorists just as they reach for change for the parking meter. I recently watched a colleague encounter this man. My colleague (he doesn’t know I’m writing this) beckoned toward a restaurant, walked up to the counter and ordered the man lunch.

Some of the finest things one does are performed with no expectation of credit or personal gain.

I thought of this encounter when the Michigan Legislature enacted historic pension reform in June. The details have been reported: The reform, crafted by the Legislature and governor, closes the current school pension system to new employees. They will be placed into a 401(k)-type plan and the state has adopted controls to avoid accruing new unfunded liabilities.

Lawmakers who voted for the change did the right thing with little expectation for short-term accolades. Most voters won’t immediately understand the significance of the vote. Others will believe the inaccurate portrayals spread by loud critics. By the time the wisdom of the change becomes widely evident, the political careers of those who enacted it will mostly be complete.

And yet we saw a historic vote — a reform Gov. John Engler wasn’t able to secure in the 1990s. Michigan now occupies a position of national leadership on how to address runaway legacy costs. We have Sen. Phil Pavlov and Rep. Tom Albert to thank for sponsoring the legislation, along with Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and House Speaker Tom Leonard for their leadership in crafting a solution with Gov. Rick Snyder. There is more to do, but the most difficult change has been secured.

This reform has been our top policy priority for more than three years at the Mackinac Center. We researched the issue, studied alternatives, published studies, recommended policy changes, explained the ramifications to taxpayers and answered lawmakers’ questions.

This is why the Mackinac Center exists: We take the long view and recommend ideas that will advance liberty and opportunity for decades to come. Your support converts this vision into a reality. Thank you!