Michigan leads effort to shift workers away from pensions

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In a Jan. 26, 2017, photo, Monty Nye, a retired Meridian Township, Mich., firefighter still active in the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union and the International Association of Fire Fighters, poses in his office at the Michigan AFL-CIO in ... Lansing, Mich. Michigan is making a push to cut retiree health care and potentially move new public workers from pensions to 401(k) plans. (AP Photo/Al Goldis) (The Associated Press)

Michigan lawmakers appear ready to take another whack at public employee benefits as the state struggles under the weight of pension and health care obligations.

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The move reflects renewed determination to shift workers to 401(k)-style retirement systems, even if it happens in baby steps.

Other states have made more modest changes, but the latest push shows that conservatives want to approve big reforms 20 years after Michigan became the first state to close pensions to future state workers. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is pressing to address $14 billion in unfunded liabilities spread across more than 330 communities.

Michigan is taking a leading role because of its size and the fact that GOP legislators and Snyder turned what was once a stronghold of organized labor into a right-to-work state.