For Governing's upcoming March issue, I wrote a little piece about how there could be some grumbling about the generosity of government employee pensions and retirement health care benefits. Those types of goodies are being cut in the private sector, so government workers are going to be pressed to make the case for why they should get them, I wrote.
Not surprisingly, the spokesmen I talked with at the big public employee unions weren't thrilled with my line of questioning. They seemed to deny that this could be an issue, arguing that rather than attacking public sector employees, private sector workers should also be getting good health and retirement coverage.
At any rate, USA Today runs a front-page story today about "pension tension" that I think will be fairly typical of the type of thing that I believe the unions are going to have to grapple with.
"Rather than lower the bar for public employees, we need to stabilize retirement programs for everyone," Richard Ferlauto, director of pension and benefit policy for AFSCME, told the paper.
But he did acknowledge that the benefits are drawing more attention. "People want to know, 'Why should you have more security than us?' " he said. "It's pension envy."