Less than a month ago, the legislature finally squeezed through a teacher retirement incentive package designed to help both school districts and the state get their costs under control.
Eligible teachers who applied to retire by this week’s deadline would get a slightly sweetened pension. Those who elected to stay would get less when they did retire, and to add injury to insult, teachers who don’t retire will lose three percent of their pay next year.
State bean counters had predicted about half of Michigan’s eligible teachers would accept the deal, which would mean about twenty-eight thousand would retire at the end of this month.
But guess what. It looks like the number choosing to retire is barely half what they expected. As of yesterday, the state had only received some fourteen thousand applications.
Today’s the deadline for those to be put in the mail. The final total may be a thousand or two higher, but won’t come close to what was predicted. This may have shocked the legislature.
But it comes as no shock to anyone who knows anything about teachers. They tend to be dedicated professionals who care very much about their careers, which they see as far more than just a job.
They feel that what they do -- educating the next generation -- is important in itself, not just a stepping stone. Plus -- many of the teachers eligible to retire under this package are in their early or mid-50s. That is when most professionals are at their best.
Many still have children at home or in college, don’t need a loss of income, and just aren’t ready to retire. So they aren’t leaving.
This will actually be good for our kids, since an experienced teacher is frequently better than a brand new one, but means less savings for school districts. According to the House Fiscal Agency, fewer retirements mean about $110 million dollars less in savings than they thought they’d have next year.
Well, I have a solution. Raise the tax on beer, and give the money to the schools. That’s right, raise the tax on beer.
They haven’t touched the beer tax since they lowered it in 1966 -- to less than two cents a bottle -- and it has stayed there ever since, Actually, when you consider inflation, it is far less than it was.
No other product in Michigan has maintained the same tax rate for forty-four years. Had the beer tax been indexed to inflation, a bottle of beer would now cost a dime more, and the state would have an additional $275 million dollars a year.
Beer is not a necessity, by the way.
Nobody is forced to consume beer. Those who do probably would barely notice an extra dime per bottle. Research from other states shows no sign that raising the beer tax hurts jobs or consumption. Except perhaps among illegal underage drinkers. The Michigan Legislature could make a historic decision and declare that our children’s future is more important than really cheap beer.
If you agree, you just might want to let your leaders know.