Bills that would allow communities to cut retirement benefits introduced in Legislature

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) Police and firefighters are opposing newly introduced legislation that would force municipalities to address underfunded pension and retiree health care plans.
A coalition of unionized police officers, firefighters and police and fire chiefs said Thursday it had "some agreement" with Republican legislative leaders on conceptual issues, but the bills as introduced go "beyond those concepts."
The unions and groups say letting the state impose benefit changes is contrary to recommendations made by a task force created by Gov. Rick Snyder.
Majority Republicans say many communities are adequately addressing their unfunded liabilities or are taking steps to do so, but some are not and risk going into bankruptcy. They say the bills are designed to ensure municipalities are acting because retirement costs are eating into 20 percent of budgets in many places.
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Michigan municipalities would have to report financial information about their employee retirement systems to the state under new legislation that supporters say is designed to help communities address substantially underfunded pension and health care plans.
The Republican-backed bills, proposed Thursday, could ultimately lead to the creation of a board of state and local appointees to tackle underfunding if a local community has no adequate plan moving forward. Consent agreements could be reached among the state treasurer, the local government and a financial team.
Unlike legislation that died a year ago, these measures would impose benefit cuts for future and potentially current employees. But the legislation could possibly result in benefit changes depending on talks at the local level at the end of a five-stage process.