03/13/2010 - The politics of shrinking government spending can lead to tortured math and bureaucratic back flips. In one of the Washington area's wealthiest counties, recession has prompted a bout of creative bookkeeping and something called the "Phantom COLA."
As state and local officials from California to Miami have sought to cut payroll costs, officials in Montgomery County last year pressed government employees to forgo part of their negotiated pay raises. They did. But some of the county's powerful public employee unions also benefited from an unusual deal.
"Sustainability is a funny word," said Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, which has tallied trillions of dollars' worth of retirement promises made by state governments across the country. "They can certainly sustain it. But it means they can't pay for something else."
Read the full article Montgomery, Md., Pension Deal Eases Sacrifice for Unions on The Washington Post Web site.