Baker administration says pension shift could cause great pain

The proposal by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to shift the cost of teacher and library pensions to localities has sparked much unhappiness among county leaders in the Washington suburbs. Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has been adamant in his opposition, as has Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D).

Now, Tom Himler, Baker’s deputy administrator for budget, finance and administration, has come up with an estimate of what it would cost the cash-strapped county to take on the pensions in the 50-50 split that O’Malley has proposed.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Himler, who was responding to a request from state legislators from the county who want to help the Baker administration fight the shift, estimates that it will cost the county $34 million in fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1. By fiscal year 2022, Himler estimates, it will cost the county as much as $98 million annually.

Last week, Himler told the county’s Senate delegation that he thought the O’Malley administration had understated the impact of the pension shift on local governments.

Meanwhile, Baker is continuing a series of meetings with residents this week to discuss their hopes for the county’s $2.7 billion spending plan, more than half of which goes to the public schools. This week’s session is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Harmony Hall, 10701 Livingston Rd., Fort Washington.

Baker has said that if the pension shift occurs to the degree that the governor wants, the county, already facing a $126 million shortfall, will be looking at a very austere budget.

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