Bills seek to increase pensions for some retired troopers

LANSING, Mich. (AP) – The Michigan Legislature is considering a proposal to raise the pensions of 96 former state troopers who retired three or more decades ago to ensure they get at least $16,000 a year.

The state Senate unanimously approved two bills June 17 to adjust the pensions, sending them to the House for consideration.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Al Pscholka said he plans to examine the bills closely before sending them to the House floor.

“We’ll take a look at it, but it’s probably not going to be a top priority,” Pscholka, R-Stevensville, told The Detroit News ( ). “I am concerned about setting a precedent.”

The legislation’s backers say it would address an inequity for former troopers who retired before Oct. 1, 1986, but don’t qualify for Social Security benefits from their service with Michigan State Police.

Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, is a retired trooper himself and said the guaranteed minimum brings the retirees above the poverty level.

The troopers weren’t covered by Social Security and “this is their Social Security,” he said.

Twenty-three retired state troopers have pensions of $12,000 or less per year, 50 have pensions ranging from $12,000 to $14,999, and 23 get $15,000 to $16,000, according to the state Office of Retirement Services.

Nofs and Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, secured a $330,000 appropriation for state police in the state’s next fiscal year to pay for the increase in pensions of the retirees and their survivors.

“It’s certainly not going to make them rich by any means,” Casperson said. “But it’s certainly a nice gesture.”

The cost of the pension increase is expected to decrease in future years as the retirees die.

“The youngster in this group is about 85,” said Diane Garrison, a retired state post commander and chairwoman of the Michigan State Police Troopers Association’s retire committee. “Every year (the cost) will diminish as these people go to the blue goose in the sky.”

Other retired state workers have similar pension limitations.

About 22,000 retired state employees and about 91,000 retired public school employees are collecting annual pensions of $16,000 or less, according to the Office of Retirement Services.