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Top Republican lawmakers, Snyder inches from deal on teacher retirement

teacher with two students
department of education

Top lawmakers in the state Legislature have reached a tentative agreement with Gov. Rick Snyder about changes to the state’s teacher retirement system.


House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, and Senate Majority Leader Meekhof, R-West Olive, have been aggressively pursuing a plan to shut down the state’s hybrid pension and 401(k) system. Meekhof and Leonard want to put all new hires into a 401(k) plan.


The new system is similar to the current one – except new hires would automatically be steered into the 401(k) unless they opt for a plan with a pension component. A spokesperson for Governor Snyder says they are also looking to make the 401(k) option more attractive to teachers.


Snyder says he’s pleased with the compromise. The standoff with GOP leaders was holding up completion of the new state budget.


“I believe it’s a good, solid package that we worked on in a very collaborative, thoughtful fashion,” he said, “and it will be good for school employees and for Michigan taxpayers.” 


Governor Snyder is a licensed CPA who opposed an earlier proposal by the GOP leaders. He said it would cost too much to make the changes Republican legislators were calling for.


As to specifics on the plan, Speaker Leonard was vague.


The information will be out there for you all to be able to see, I’m not ganna put a timeline on it,” he said. “It would be out there for you to see and review. There will be adequate hearings. And it will be done the right way.” 

But Democrats say they’ve been left out of the negotiations. House Minority Leader Sam Singh said he hasn’t been invited to any meetings.


“Why wouldn’t you bring all the voices to the table,” he said. “And it’s a shame that they’ve only decided to bring Republican voices at this point in time.”


Leonard said he’s willing to have bipartisan discussions, but says Democrats haven’t brought, quote “real solutions.”  

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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