Addressing the Public Pension Shortfall

By Beacon Staff

Now is the perfect time to travel the Swan Valley. The numerous deer usually on the road are now aware of hunting season and very scarce. The three-point buck I passed on the way to Helena last week must have sensed that I wasn’t carrying a rifle as he stood next to the road and watched me pass.

Legislators are now home trying to remember all the information we soaked in for three days while electing leadership and going to meetings. Local Rep. Mark Blasdel will do a great job as speaker of the House, as will Sen. Jeff Essmann as president of the Senate, a job long held by Whitefish resident Bob Brown, who was in attendance two weeks ago.

While Congress is wrestling with the fiscal cliff in Washington DC, Montana’s legislators cannot afford to kick the can down the road any longer regarding public pension plans. The Pew Institute pointed out that the freight train is barreling our way and solutions for a solvent system and taxpayer relief will be a primary focus in 2013.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer has offered his solutions, which have some good points. The 40- to 50-year fix, however, needs to be on a faster track. Leadership has asked for a joint committee to study and suggest some ideas for a permanent solution to the $3.9 billion imbalance.

Several pension bill drafts have been submitted and will work their way through the process. My hope is that our final decision will be fair for future employees of the state and have some security for the taxpayers. I’ve heard that the union reps in Helena don’t want any change, so my suggestion would be to come up with some positive solutions and join the nonpartisan group attempting to fix the unsoundness. This will take a lot of work on both sides of the aisle, so we can join hands or butt heads. The latter seems a lesson in futility.

Having the beginning meetings in November prepares us for the upcoming session – reacquainting with old friends and making new ones is always a good experience for me. I know from the past that gaining friendships early makes it easier after session begins.

Our dinner together as legislators was a great time, not only for the company and the food, but for the things we learned during a Montana trivia game. We couldn’t come up with an answer to this: Where in Montana is an elephant buried? Seems a lightning strike during a circus in Dillon caused the pachyderm’s death. They held a funeral and buried it outside of town.

We learn something new every day, don’t we? I intend to learn a lot more while serving you in the 2013 session and thank you for your support. Please look me up while in Helena and keep in touch by phone or Internet. I am here to serve the best interests of the taxpayers in District 2. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Dee Brown is the senator-elect in Senate District 2.

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