Can they defund the pension?

Several people have contact us about the demand by the protestors and rioters in Seattle that they defund the police and pensions as well. Well, they can’t. Take a look at this article from Newsweek that explains the issue quite well.

A demand from demonstrators in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Organized/Occupied Protest (CHOP) to scrap funding for police pensions cannot be met by the city.

Seattle City Council is looking into the funding of the police department, with a view to shift money into social services. However, the latter part of the demand is not something the city has the power to fulfill due to the pensions being controlled at a state level.

A spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems told Newsweek that pensions are awarded by a state-administered system that cannot be modified at a local level.

In an emailed statement to Newsweek, they said: “In Washington state, all police and firefighters are members of the state’s Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’ (LEOFF) retirement system. Membership is mandatory. It is a state-administered system which cannot be modified by local jurisdictions.”

They went on to explain that the state is require to pay out pensions that have already been earned and that this is established under previous case law, adding: “For pension system members and retirees, the state is required to pay pension benefits that have been earned based on the contractual right of the pension. This was established in the court case Bakenhus v City of Seattle. In essence, Bakenhus says that a benefit that has already been earned (including future benefits for those currently working) cannot be reduced.”

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