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Teachers are heroes. Ronald Reagan, the "Great Communicator" said that. It was one thing he got right. Firefighters and Policemen are heroes. Remember the images of 9/11, the New York Fire Department hats, the NYPD baseball cap on Rudolph Giuliani? Heroes. Now with the "No Child Left Behind" law, schoolteachers will have to be superheroes. In Alaska, the man who drives the snowplow is also a hero.
The Republicans in our state Senate and House are now rewarding these public servants who teach our kids, and risk their lives in burning buildings and on mean streets and dangerous roads for us, for their years of dedication in the most horrible way.
Senate Bill 141, sponsored by Senate Republican Ben Stevens, guts their retirement plan, utterly destroys the security for these public servants in their golden years by switching to a direct contribution plan modeled on President Bush's private retirement account plan that he wants to replace Social Security with. It does away with the with the plan's contribution to their health insurance premiums. Our Republicans here in Alaska are following suit with their national agenda to downgrade society.
These public servants promised us something when they went to work for us. They promised us that they would take care of our kids, take care of our safety and our roads, but the state promised them something in return for their dedication, a good retirement plan. Now the Republican majority is reneging on that promise.
The Republican mantra is that there is no money to pay the promised benefit plans. It was fully funded three years ago but much of it was lost on the stock market. The state is running a surplus with $50-per-barrel oil. And it only takes a wink of an eye for these Republicans to raid the Alaska Permanent Fund to throw millions away on more studies of a gas line that probably never will be built, and if it is, will probably bankrupt the state in the process. But that is throwing money at the oil industry, which is a more Republican pastime than baseball. If they are going to be raiding the permanent fund to throw money at the oil industry, they might as well put some of it into the public employees retirement plans. At least it will earn interest for the state there.