When I was a little kid, my mom would say “Don’t take things that don’t belong to you.”
And if I did anyway she would say “Give it back this instant, young man.”
If I didn’t, I knew justice – mom-style – would be swift and sure: A good solid two hours in my room was in my immediate future so I could “think” about what I’d done. (I never did, by the way.)
And if that didn’t get my attention, the dreaded follow-up threat – “Just wait ‘til your father gets home” (hey, it was a different era) – surely would.
There was nothing worse than that.
Those were the rules in my house. Maybe the rules were different in Gov. Snyder’s.
The Nerd King is bent on asking the state Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling that the state should refund $550 million that was unconstitutionally and involuntarily taken from school employees between 2010 and 2013 to fund a retiree health care system.
School employees, who sued, are livid because they’ve been waiting five years already to get their money back thanks to the slow churn of our court system.
“Stop attacking teachers on the taxpayer dime!” read one sign held by a protester outside Snyder’s Lansing office this week. “Drop the appeal, it’s not your money,” said another.
Honestly, I’d be ticked, too. If my boss came to me and said “Do you voluntarily want me to take 3 percent of your salary and put it in a retirement account for you?” I’d probably say yes.
That’s more less what 401Ks are.
But if my boss, without my consent, said to me and my fellow employees, “Hey, guess what? I’m taking 3 percent of your salaries and putting it in a collective retiree health care pool that you may or may not end up benefiting from, isn’t that great?” I wouldn’t like it one bit.
That’s essentially what the state did. The Court of Appeals – twice now – has said the original law, which was eventually altered to make participation voluntary, was illegal and the state should give back the money plus interest.
But Snyder is going to appeal anyway, even though his own attorney general, Bill Schuette, apparently thinks so little of the state’s position that he is refusing to provide lawyers to fight the case.
Snyder’s reasoning: “If school employees do not contribute toward their retirement health care,” he said through a spokesperson, “the funding for the system will have to come from other district resources, either from the classroom or directly from taxpayers so that districts can balance their budget.”
I have no idea of that’s true or not. But it doesn’t matter – the courts have repeatedly said the state took something that didn’t belong to it. End of story.
So in the words of my mother, Gov. Snyder, “Give it back this instant, young man.”
And if you don’t, well, I suggest you go to your room and think about you’ve done for a few hours.