Treasurer Candidates Spar at Rappaport Center Debate

Susan Prosnitz, Steve Grossman, Craig Sandler, Karyn Polito, and Alasdair Roberts

10/13/2010

With election day fast approaching, the two candidates for Massachusetts state treasurer faced off in a lively debate hosted by the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk University Law School.

Taking part in the debate were Democratic candidate Steve Grossman, former head of the Democratic National Committee, and State Rep. Karyn Polito, a Republican from the 11th Worcester district.

Moderators of the event were Law Professor Alasdair Roberts and State House News Service General Manager Craig Sandler.

Grossman and Polito sparred over issues including student loan debt, bi-partisan leadership, patronage, the recent approval of a $400 million spending bill, and the Iran Divestment Bill.

But it was the matter of pension reform that took center stage at the debate in Sargent Hall.

Outlining his plan to fix Massachusetts' pension crisis, Grossman said that the practice of "spiking," whereby state employees move to a higher pay grade immediately before retiring in order to receive better pension benefits, must be eradicated. Grossman added that a cap on pension benefits must be implemented, and the retirement age should be increased.

"We've got serious problems," said Grossman. "We're living beyond our means, so we need to engage in pension reform." He later said that his measures would save the state nearly $2 billion over the next 30 years.

Polito countered with her own plan, which includes taking state elected officials out of the pension system and implementing a "hybrid 401(k)-type system" for new hires coming into state government.

"The major difference between me and my opponent is that he's looking to maintain more of the status quo, and I'm looking to make changes going forward,”Polito said. "I see our pension system as broken. The pension reforms that my opponent is proposing . . . do not address the larger issues."

Both candidates vowed not to take a public pension if elected.

Following the lieutenant governor debate held in late September, this event was the second of the 2010 Statewide Political Races Forum, a series of debates between candidates running for statewide office. The Rappaport Center is collaborating on the series with the State House News Service.

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