LANSING — Tonight, House Democrats voted to protect the earned health care benefits of Michigan’s retired first responders. Last week, hundreds of police officers and firefighters rallied against proposals which could have gutted health care for local heroes. Today, the recommendation of House Democrats to implement the reforms of the bipartisan Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government Task Force was accepted. While these benefits are now protected, communities in the state continue to struggle with chronic underfunding of local budgets. In response, state Rep. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) issued the following statement:

“I am pleased that my Democratic colleagues and I were able to stop legislation that would have made drastic cuts to retirement and health care benefits for police officers, firefighters and other first responders. By adopting the recommendations of the Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government Task Force, we take the first step toward giving our local governments the tools they need to address the financial difficulties too many of them are experiencing. We supported the task force recommendations from the time they were issued, and I am glad to see Republican leadership finally come around. These are reasonable reforms that protect first responder retiree benefits. There is more work to do, however, to address the state’s chronic underfunding of local governments, which has been a major reason for their financial issues. But tonight, we are doing the right thing for our communities, and I am proud to cast my vote for this plan.”