From the Media

Fiscal woes at peak for towns

HOLLISTON - The problem

Thanks to a flagging economy, the last two years have been the most financially difficult for Bay State towns and cities in 30 years, according to a report by the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Statewide, municipal budgets grew by a combined 1.2 percent in fiscal 2010 and 2011, a new two-year low, the report said. Property taxes increased 3.8 percent statewide last fiscal year, the smallest one-year increase since Proposition 2½ began capping property tax increases in 1982.

Municipal budgets most stressed since ’80, report says

Boston Globe

State aid cuts, lack of growth are cited

December 7 2011: Cash-strapped cities and towns across Massachusetts are struggling with the worst stress on their budgets since passage of Proposition 2 1/2 in 1980, according to a new report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Many Workers in Public Sector Retiring Sooner

NT Times

MADISON, Wis. — As states and cities struggle to resolve paralyzing budget shortfalls by sending workers on unpaid furloughs, freezing salaries and extracting larger contributions for health benefits and pensions, a growing number of public-sector workers are finding fewer reasons to stay.

Many healthy returns

Boston Herald

Back when Beacon Hill was considering reforms to the way cities and towns design health plans for their workers, we were warned by public employee unions that the end of the world was nigh. Turns out, not so much.

Rhode Island adopts sweeping changes to pension system

PROVIDENCE - Despite jeers and the threat of a union lawsuit, Rhode Island lawmakers approved extensive changes yesterday to one of the nation’s most underfunded public pension systems.

The state’s heavily Democratic General Assembly defied its traditional union allies to pass the landmark changes.

Lawmakers approve Mass. pension bill

Boston Globe

BOSTON—The Massachusetts Legislature has approved an overhaul of the state's pension system that would raise the minimum retirement age for future state employees to 60.

The compromise bill was accepted Tuesday by the Senate on a 27-10 vote and later on a 149-0 vote in the House.

Medicare Part B Premiums for 2012 Lower Than Projected

Medscape Medical News

October 28, 2011 — More prudent use of medical services and tougher competition among healthcare providers has slowed the growth of Medicare spending, allowing for Part B premiums to be lower than projected, federal health officials said yesterday.

Social Security Beneficiaries to Receive 3.6% Increase

Fifty-five million Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment next year, the U.S. government said today.

The COLA increase, the first since 2009, takes effect in January. Eight million Americans participating in the Supplemental Security Income program, which provides cash assistance to the blind and disabled poor, will receive the same 3.6 percent boost.

Some reform is better than none at all

Newburyport News Editorial

Bottom line for the pension reform bill currently before the Legislature: Since changes would affect only those hired into government service after Jan. 1, 2012, anyone offered employment with the state who felt they could get a better deal elsewhere would be free to turn the job down.

Don't add to pension problem by upping cost-of-living raises

Boston Globe Editorial

MASSACHUSETTS NEEDS another round of public-pension reforms. Though Beacon Hill has made progress in curbing the worst abuses of the system, public-pension systems still have billions of dollars more in liabilities than they have money to pay for them. Bond rating agencies have made it clear that unless Beacon Hill comes to grips with the problem, the Commonwealth's ability to borrow money will suffer. And while the bill that cleared the Senate Thursday will help in several important ways, it also exacerbates the problem in others.