Powerful state senator promises Slay he will block bills aiding firefighters in pension fight
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 5, 2012 - State Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, is weighing in on the city of St. Louis’ fight over firefighters’ pensions, by assuring Mayor Francis Slay that he will block any attempts to pass bills in Jefferson City that favor the firefighters’ stance.
Crowell noted in a letter to the mayor that he wields significant power as the chairman of the Senate pensions, veterans’ affairs and general laws committee.
“I am writing to pledge my full cooperation in your efforts, but I want you to know that I will not support or allow passage of state legislation that masquerades as reform or pushes costs off to a future generation,” Crowell wrote in the letter, made available to the Beacon. “Too many states, cities and counties have pursued this failed strategy, and eventually they and their taxpayers will pay a much higher price.”
Crowell continued, “It is my intention to seek passage of legislation on the state level if necessary that returns control of the system to the city of St. Louis. Short of that, I will oppose any legislation that does not meet the common goal of reforming to an actuarial certainty the firemen’s retirement system.”
Crowell added that he supports Slay’s proposed changes in the firefighters’ pensions and opposes an alternate plan pressed by Local No. 73 of the International Association of Firefighters.
The senator wrote that, in his opinion, the firefighters’ proposal “is wholly inadequate and as such, I assure you that it will not clear the Senate this session. I prevented passage of similar legislation last year and will do so again this year.”
Sources say Crowell has sent letters with even stronger language to several members of the region’s state Senate delegation, including Sen. John Lamping, R-Frontenac, who is close to the firefighters’ group.
The firefighters are going the legislative route, believing that the General Assembly might be a better place than City Hall to press their case.
Crowell is term-limited after this session, which means the firefighters may need to wait at least until the 2013 legislative session to press their case. That would put the issue smack in the middle of the next mayoral race.
Crowell, by the way, has not always been on Slay’s side. The senator has sought for years to curb the state’s tax credits for renovation and restoration of historic structures – a program used extensively to rebuild downtown St. Louis and some neighborhoods.
Jo Mannies Beacon political reporter