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Beutler’s .5 percent pay cut is a start — but what about that 12 percent retirement match?

Mayor Chris Beutler announced yesterday that he and his cabinet and aides will take a one-half percent pay cut in the next budget, to “send the right message” to their fellow employees and the community.

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler

That’s a great start. But Beutler could go farther. For the past several years, he has railed against the city’s overly generous retirement program for civilian employees — where the city kicks in about $2 for every $1 the employee contributes toward retirement, up to 12 percent of their salary. The generous match caused controversy during the recession, when many private companies reduced or eliminated such matches.

“That generosity is inhibiting Lincolnites’ willingness to invest in our future,” Beutler said at a press conference in 2009. “They’re asking why our tax dollars are financing retirements that they themselves can’t.”

In the end, he was unable to get the unions to go along with reducing the match for existing employees, but most unions agreed to reduce the match for new hires to a more palatable 1.3-to-1.

Beutler even chastised the one holdout union for essentially being so selfish in fighting to keep the 2-to-1 match. However, I recently learned that Beutler and his cabinet still get the “overly generous” 2-to-1 match. Beutler gets about $8,712 per year in retirement compensation — that’s more than Gov. Dave Heineman gets, even though he earns about $30,000 more per year than Beutler.

I think that sends the wrong message to Beutler’s fellow city employees and the public, and if he really wants to set an example for them, he should donate the excess retirement to charity. Just a thought.

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