McDonnell: Virginia Must Keep Promise Made to Current State Employees
VIRGINIA BEACH- Bob McDonnell, Republican gubernatorial nominee and former Attorney General of Virginia, issued the following statement this morning opposing Governor Tim Kaine’s recently announced decision to seriously consider requiring Virginia state employees to contribute to their retirement accounts. This decision to “look hard” at making state employees pay into the pension plan is a major policy change in how the retirement accounts of Virginia state employees are funded.
Speaking about his position, McDonnell noted, “These are tough economic times. I understand the governor has been forced to make difficult decisions to balance the budget. As Attorney General, I made tough choices as well, cutting the office’s budget by 14% over a two-year period. But the decision to suspend a scheduled payment to the state’s Retirement Fund is a budget gimmick that will reduce the solvency of the fund at a time when the funded reserve has already declined. This should be of concern to every state employee and retiree. The tough fiscal climate also is no excuse for breaking a longstanding commitment to the men and women who have dedicated their careers to the service of Virginia’s people. Since 1983 , the Commonwealth has contributed state workers personal portions to their pensions. As The Richmond Times-Dispatch correctly noted this morning, the decision to do so was made as a compromise for not offering workers a pay raise at the time. State workers were given long - term financial assistance in exchange for forfeiting possible pay raises. And in recent years our state workers have continued to provide great public service, without increases in pay or benefits. The compromise represents a promise made by the Commonwealth to state workers. That promise cannot be broken. While defined-contribution plans may be considered in the years ahead for new employees joining state government, I do not believe they should be applied to current state employees who were promised a different system. The recent news of multiple budget shortfalls, the cancelling of the I-95/395 Hot Lane project, the closing of state rest stops, the repeated imposition of new financial burdens on tuition-paying students and families, concerns over Medicaid funding, and so many other issues make it clear that there is much work to be done to get Virginia’s financial house in order. But penalizing hard working state employees, and breaking a promise made to them, when they started their careers, cannot be the solution. I believe we do need government agency restructuring, performance audits, and more innovation and prioritization to reform elements of state government. But we will not make government work better by pulling the rug out from under the very people who serve in state government and will be charged with implementing these much-needed reforms.”