Legislator successfully fights to fix county’s pension liability issue
State Rep. Greg Markkanen today said funding to help Gogebic County resolve a pension liability issue will soon be on its way after the new budget plan was signed into law this week by the governor.
Markkanen, of Hancock, has fought since he first took office nearly two years ago to secure funding to help Gogebic County cover the approximately $1 million in pension costs left over from the disbanded Western Upper Peninsula Manpower Consortium. The Legislature previously agreed to set aside funding for the issue, only to twice have it vetoed by the governor because of COVID-19 and a disagreement on the administration’s proposal to raise the gas tax by 45 cents a gallon.
“Gogebic County taxpayers never should have been saddled with this debt, and I wasn’t going to stop fighting until the state made things right,” Markkanen said. “The people who worked at the Western Upper Peninsula Manpower Consortium were public servants paid by the state, and it’s only right for the state to pay for the pensions they were promised.”
Gogebic County provided administrative services for the Western Upper Peninsula Manpower Consortium, which was responsible for job training, employment and workforce development services in Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Iron and Ontonagon counties prior to 2015. It then consolidated with the Eastern Upper Peninsula Jobs Consortium and Job Force to form the UPWARD Talent Council.
In 2018, Chippewa County was awarded $800,000 in state funding to take care of pension debt that remained after the Eastern Upper Peninsula Jobs Consortium disbanded. The finalized 2021 budget includes $1.1 million to resolve the pension debt from the Western Upper Peninsula Manpower Consortium.
“I wasn’t going to let the Western Upper Peninsula keep getting the short end of the stick,” Markkanen said. “This was a matter of fairness. I’m proud to report it has been corrected, and the people of Gogebic County won’t be on the line for this funding.”
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