Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) says that if we don't take action soon, the county is destined for economic catastrophe. He is falsely claiming that Fairfax County's public-employee pension plans are going to bust the county's budget.
In reality, the Fairfax County retirement systems are adequately funded to meet the needs and obligations of the future. These healthy retirement systems are a significant reason we have some of the best schools and public-safety services in the country. Fairfax County attracts and retains the best teachers, firefighters and police officers and supports them throughout their professional lives.
It would be one thing if Herrity had data and a real problem to fix. He alleges that our retirement plans are too expensive and somehow discourage the recruitment and retention of good employees and, therefore, must be eliminated before it's too late.
Herrity supports a takeover effort that would place our county's employees at the whim of Wall Street, eliminating defined-benefit plans and creating new profit streams for Wall Street money managers by forcing public employees into a 401(k) plan, whereby retail-account fees can create a gravy train for brokerage firms.
States and localities that have made such a switch to 401(k)-type plans have begun to rethink and regret these decisions and are looking to reverse course. They discovered that these decisions threaten the financial security of thousands of public employees who have provided a lifetime of service to build and protect our communities
Why would one of the richest counties in the country sink to the lowest common denominator and abandon retirement security for its public servants, who are a big part of the reason we have a stellar reputation?
Fairfax County public employees absolutely believe in the need to be fiscally responsible. We always stand ready to do our part. But handing over millions of our taxpayers' money to Wall Street while hurting our schools and public safety by chasing away firefighters and other public employees (who will flee for Loudoun County and other surrounding jurisdictions) makes no sense.
And it's impossible to make a fair budget assessment when spending is hidden.
This year, the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Good Jobs First rated Fairfax as one of the least transparent big localities in the nation in terms of revealing its big tax breaks — known as economic-development incentives — granted to some of the richest corporations in the world.
It's completely unknown how much potential revenue Fairfax County is giving away. Some speculate it is in the millions per year. Some individual company deals may run to eight figures over multiple years.
The county claims these deals are about economic growth, yet county officials fail to reveal the names of the companies awarded tax breaks, much less whether they create jobs or pay good wages and benefits to people who live in our county. For a community that fancies itself a hub of the Internet, Fairfax County won't even post the most basic tax break information online.
Tax breaks to big businesses are forcing small businesses and residents to pay more taxes to keep our county fiscally strong. Tax breaks also put stress on our infrastructure, schools, public transportation, roads and police and fire services, just to name a few.
If we are going to take on budget challenges and find solutions together, we need all of the information on the table. Only with honest discussions — informed by a full accounting of all current spending — will we find the right solutions and ensure the county a healthy future with the best employees to serve it.
Read more about this issue: