November 18, 2010

Howard Co's Ulman to fight teacher pension shift

Sun colleague Larry Carson reports that Howard County Executive Ken Ulman will fight any state legislative moves to shift the cost of teacher pensions to local governments. The Democratic Ulman, who becomes the next president of the Maryland Association of Counties in January, picks up the anti-pension-shift torch from Republican Harford County Executive David Craig, MACo's current leader. Carson writes:

"We're going to be down there [in Annapolis] working hard to make the case that there should not be a pension shift. We already pick up Social Security," Ulman said.

State officials argue that counties set teacher salaries that determine their pensions, so it's not fair for the state to foot the whole bill, but Ulman tried to deflect that by pointing out that the elected school board sets the salaries, not the county executive. In any case, "I don't think that [the shift] is a foregone conclusion," he said.

Both Ulman and Craig see Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley as an ally on the teacher pension issue. A former mayor of Baltimore, O'Malley knows how difficult a time local governments would have picking up even a portion of the $900 million annual tab, Ulman and Craig say. In a recent article about tax talk bubbling up in Annapolis, Craig expressed his fears that state lawmakers will try to offload the revenue problem to counties. Local officials say they'd likely have no choice but to raise property taxes if they have to start paying for teacher pensions.

"It comes down to an attempt to shove costs to the local governments," Craig said. He noted that local officials are the people most likely to challenge state delegates and senators for their seats.

"They want us to be the ones raising taxes," he said. "They want us to be the ones to look bad." SOURCE: Baltimoree Sun

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