EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


July 30, 2007

Outrage, lack of fairness fuel debate over pension reform

People like Anthony Juliano and Leslie Covui have a stake in the debate over public pension reform now underway on Beacon Hill.

Not that they have state pensions. But the disparity between the retirement benefits of private-sector retirees like them and of those at the top of the state pension food chain is one of the things driving the debate. And its outcome will affect their lives and those of every other resident of the state.

Peabody resident Juliano, 68, retired four years ago for health reasons after 23 years teaching computer science at local Catholic high schools and 18 years before that at Honeywell.

He and his wife, Carolyn, depend on Social Security and modest pensions from the Archdiocese of Boston and Honeywell. Nearly all his wife's Social Security check is consumed by the couple's health care costs of $600 to $700 a month. That includes the cost of buying coverage to supplement Medicare | something that would have been part of his retirement package had Juliano taught in public schools.

"We don't go taking the trips like we used to take," Anthony Juliano said. "The cars stay in the driveway."

Covui, 75, of Beverly, spent his last 10 working years at Shaw's supermarkets. He and his wife, Louise, 82, live almost entirely off their Social Security income of less than $2,000 a month, he said. His supermarket pension provides him less than $50 per month.

"I just wish I started working for Shaw's earlier," said Covui, who retired at 62.

But Covui thinks the couple is "doing pretty good" after taking out a reverse mortgage that provides income that will be repaid upon sale of their home.

Reform on the table

Massachusetts politicians have created a public pension system widely criticized as unfair both to many of the people who depend on it and to the taxpayers who help pay for it.

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