Last week, LAGERS members gathered in Jefferson City to take part in a very first for our retirement system - an Advocacy Day. An advocacy day is an opportunity for members from across our state to gather in the capitol to demonstrate a physical presence of our system and to visit with legislators about the value of their LAGERS benefit. We had a great time, visited with tons of legislators, and brought some serious pension energy to the capitol building!! Here are a few highlights from our day!
In my office, over the back of one of the chairs at a small conference table, hangs a precious gift I received from the Jefferson City Fire Department – an old firefighter coat that was worn and retired from service. Just an old, smoke-filled coat... that means so much more.
My colleague Penny and I recently spent some time in Rolla to honor one of our long-standing members, Rolla Municipal Utilities employee Rosalie Spencer, who was celebrating 50 years with the organization with a lunch reception. Around 70 of Rosalie's friends, family and coworkers present and past were on hand to celebrate her accomplishment. "When I started here, I told them if they hired me I wanted to stay until I retire. And I am." Rosalie plans to retire at the end of April of this year, and because she has stayed for 50 years should be able to replace a sizable amount of her salary with her LAGERS benefit.
You may be wondering why a LAGERS blog would focus on Developmental Disability Awareness. As all of us at LAGERS know, our members are exceptional people. They are "Salt of the Earth" people, people who make our communities flourish and shine. And among our member employers are "Senate Bill 40" agencies. Senate Bill 40 employers, named after the Senate Bill that established them, provide for the employment, residential, and related service needs for people with developmental disabilities in Missouri. LAGERS members who are employed by SB 40 employers are made up of social workers, case workers, administrators and others whose primary focus is to assist people with developmental disabilities in meeting their needs so they can gain more independence and inclusion within their communities. Not only are our Senate Bill 40 employees special to us and our communities, but so are the people they serve within our communities.
Reform has been the hot topic in the world of public employee retirement plans for years. Too often the conversation immediately turns to tossing out defined benefit pensions for government workers and replacing them with individual investment accounts like 401(k)s. Supporters of the 401(k) approach say these plans are a better fit for the modern worker; they are always fully funded; they give workers control over their own money; the public sector should follow the private sector's lead in eliminating pension plans. However, this thinking does not consider the uniqueness of public sector jobs, workers' lack of understanding of financial products, the impact on workers' retirement security, or the effect on the employer and taxpayers.