(Video above: RSA CEO Dr. David Bronner speaks to the Alabama State Employees Association. Part two of the speech can be viewed here.)
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The CEO of Alabama’s public employees’ pension system has a lengthy list of foul-mouthed grievances with the citizens of Alabama and their elected representatives, and he made it known in no uncertain terms during a recent speech.
Dr. David Bronner, who has led the taxpayer-backed Retirement Systems of Alabama since 1973, told the Alabama State Employees Association last week that there are several things about Alabama he cannot understand.
“I can’t figure out why our legislature loves to pass unconstitutional laws,” Bronner said to begin his list. “It sure as hell doesn’t do any good for the people of Alabama.”
He did not elaborate on which laws he was referring to, but did get more specific about several of his other frustrations.
“I’ve yet to figure out why Alabamians hate the federal government,” he continued.
Alabama’s relatively high poverty rate results in a disproportionate flow of federal dollars into the state in the form of social welfare programs, which Dr. Bronner says should be encouraged rather than shunned.
But he saved some of his most stinging criticism for conservative Alabamians who he believes are irrationally opposed to higher taxes and expanding government healthcare programs.
“Tell me logically how anybody who says, ‘Ok, I’m going to give it to you for free for three years,’ and you say, ‘No, I don’t want that old Obama insurance stuff, because golly, what would I do with a billion and a half dollars for three years for free?'”
Expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare would mean the program would cover adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government has promised to pay 100 percent of the expansion’s cost for the first three years, then would steadily decrease their contributions in future years, shifting more of the burden to the state. But whether the money is flowing through the state or federal government, taxpayers are still the ones footing the bill, leaving many of them to likely take exception to Bronner’s characterization of it as “free” money.
The Alabama Senate earlier this year passed a resolution voicing their opposition to expanding Medicaid.
“The state should pursue reforms based on reducing Medicaid dependence, rather than increasing dependence,” the resolution stated. Legislative leaders expressed concerns that an expansion of the program would further strain the state’s beleaguered General Fund, where Medicaid is already the largest line-item.
Dr. Bronner — who is Alabama’s highest paid non-coach state employee — dismissed those concerns, saying it is time for Alabamians to get over their opposition to higher taxes and increased state government spending.
“What I say to Alabamians is, you want football to be the best, why won’t you fund anything else to at least be normal?”
Dr. Bronner did not mention in his speech, however, that Alabama taxpayers currently fund his organization far above what many analysts would describe as “normal.”
The RSA’s investment returns are not sufficient to cover its obligations to retired state employees, leaving Alabama taxpayers to prop up the fund to the tune of almost $1 billion per year.
A state legislative committee is currently researching reforms tried by other states in an attempt to get the burgeoning costs of the pension system under control.
But efforts to stabilize the system in the long term have been met with fierce opposition by Dr. Bronner, who dismisses calls for reform as a conspiracy by billionaire conservative industrialists the Koch Brothers, the favorite boogeymen of many Democrats on the federal level.
“The Koch Brothers are dead ass serious about taking away your pension and cutting your healthcare,” Bronner intoned, “and I don’t know why.”
He slammed conservative policy organizations and free market groups around the state for being in on the conspiracy, including Troy University’s economics department and the Alabama Policy Institute, both of which have questioned the RSA’s recent struggles.
And to top it all off, Bronner made sure to take a parting shot at Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
“I know the bastard, he ain’t worth anything,” he concluded. “I assure you, if Mr. Trump was president, you wouldn’t like it. That I can promise.”
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— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) June 9, 2015