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Michigan Effort to Reform Teacher-Pension System Fails

Following a breakneck push by Michigan Republicans to close off the state's teacher-pension system to new teachers during the current lame-duck session, legislative leaders have announced that they will not vote on the proposed bills during the waning days of this legislative session, reports the Detroit Free Press. 

Last week, the plan—which would have had new teachers enrolled in 401(k)-style retirement plans instead of in a more traditional pension plan—was passed out of a senate appropriations committee by a 9-8 vote. Three Republicans joined all five of the committee's Democrats in opposition to the bill. And while Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof initially told reporters that he expected the bill to win approval from the full senate that day, a floor vote never occurred.

Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, vigorously objected to the plan, citing an estimate from the state's nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency determining that the initial shift could cost the state as much as $4.7 billion over the first five years. Snyder is a proponent of the current system, which has been in place since 2010, where new teachers are enrolled into plans that combine aspects of a 401(k) plan and a traditional state pension plan. 

But the fight appears far from over. Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Meekhof, told the Free Press that legislative leaders "just decided they will take another crack at it in the new term."

Steven Cook, the president of the Michigan Education Association, praised the move. 

"Tabling this discussion rather than ramming this legislation through is the right decision," Cook said in a statement. "Education leaders and fiscal experts agree that dismantling the school employee retirement system would have been bad for school employees, parents, kids, and taxpayers."

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