Several hundred police officers and firefighters returned to the Capitol on Wednesday to again protest possible changes to their retirement benefits.
Though no bills had been introduced by Wednesday morning, leading lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder recently said addressing local governments' debt to retirement benefit systems — especially the severely underfunded retiree health care systems — should be a top priority for 2017. That long-term debt is becoming increasingly expensive for local governments to pay off, and officials have said doing so could put day-to-day services at risk.
Carrying signs that said things like, "We kept our word, now keep yours," the demonstrators on Wednesday lined the Capitol's eastern steps and much of the walkways in front of them.
Wednesday's demonstration mirrored another in late 2016 that helped pressure lawmakers to scrap planned retirement reforms then. Instead, Snyder created a task force that this summer recommended more monitoring and state support for local governments, while still giving local leaders flexibility to address their issues.
Organizers said in a pre-rally statement that they expected legislation to be introduced sometime this week and, as drafted, the bills would "remove local government control and the right for collective bargaining, by establishing a statewide committee to evaluate local municipality finances and manage the retiree benefit funding in each community."
Such action, the statement said, "does not take into consideration the recommendations of the Task Force and goes too far."
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