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Updated Jan 15, 2014 - 8:06 pm

Final Word: Pension cuts or Heard Museum yard sale?

The debate over funding pensions for state and local workers is center stage in lots of America’s big cities.

In Detroit, wealthy donors have offered to donate $330 million to bail out the Detroit Institute of Art, whose greatest treasures are set to go up on the auction block to bail out the city workers’ retirement benefits.

Pretty funny that it had to come down to the city filing Chapter 9 and then looking at the real possibility of hocking some Picassos for some real ideas to start flowing.

At first blush, it looks like a good idea. The donors would pay several hundred million to scoop up the city-owned art and then likely loan it back to the museums so they could remain on display.

The pensions get their money — or at least a big percentage of it — and the art stays on the walls. The museums stay open, promoting tourism and raising more money for the city.

Everybody wins, right?

But what is the real value of that art? Is it really $330 million?

Not even close.

In truth, the art is worth hundreds of millions or billions more than that. So, in essence, the buyback of the art would be even a bigger boon to the collectors of Detroit than the pension holders it is designed to help out.

In any case, it would be a heck of a garage sale.

Here in Arizona, Rep. John Kavanagh has proposed a bill that would allow Arizona voters to change the way public pensions are paid out.

It would essentially give voters the right to decide if pensions could be cut now to affect future payouts, and change the contributions required by the employee if the system is underfunded.

ASRS, the state’s retirement system, has enough money on hand right now to pay about 75 percent of its obligations. But there’s no guarantee that will be the case in 25 or 50 years.

It’s wise to do something now that at least ALLOWS for necessary changes to be made before the state goes bankrupt trying to pay all of its future workers.

Or should we call the Heard Museum and see if it wants to have a garage sale?


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