Compromise pension reform measure moves to House Floor amid Democrats’ walk-out protest

Compromise pension reform measure moves to House Floor amid Democrats’ walk-out protest

A compromise version of Senate Bill 1’s pension reform plan moved through the House State Government Committee while Democrats refused to vote on the measure or any amendments after walking out of the committee meeting amid controversy over the process by which a vote was called.

The compromise plan was largely along the lines as those previously reported by The PLS Reporter.

In chief, according to an amendment adopted to the legislation sponsored by committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), the pension reform plan would keep in place the Act 9 benefit enhancements while leaving in place other changes to prospective benefits of current employees like an actuarially-neutral Option Four, and anti-spiking provisions.

Most prominently, the legislation would move all new state and public school employees to a defined contribution 401(k)-like pension plan/cash balance retirement benefit plan.

Through these and other changes—notably the elimination of the SERS fresh start—internal Republican estimates put the reform plan’s savings at more than $12 billion using a 32-year period of PSERS and a 38-year period for SERS.

Saturday, June 27, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

GOP’s budget plan revealed; Gov. Wolf vows veto

House and Senate Republican leaders stood united Friday afternoon unveiling the much anticipated agreed-to budget bill that they promise to have to the governor’s desk by the end of June 30th.

“In November of 2014, the people of Pennsylvania sent historic majorities of the Pennsylvania House and the Pennsylvania Senate—Republicans—to Harrisburg with a mandate to reign in state government spending and to hold the line on taxes,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre).

He said the budget put together lives up to that mandate, noting it makes significant new investments in education, grows at a rate below TABOR, as well as making investments in agriculture, services for victims of rape and domestic violence, and security for the Pope’s visit in September.

“Most importantly, this budget does not include any new taxes,” he emphasized, noting the chambers will also pass liquor privatization and pension reform measures to send to the governor by June 30th.

The total budget figure being offered by the Republicans tops out at $30.1 billion.

Friday, June 26, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

Property tax reform remains a bright spot among budget-related negotiations

While it may not be at the very forefront of the topics being discussed around the budget in the waning days of June, negotiations around getting an agreed-to property tax reduction bill between the House, Senate, and governor’s office remain productive.

One such negotiation session was held Friday afternoon and included advocates for Senate Bill 76—Sen. Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon)—as well as others including Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), Rep. Mike Hanna (D-Centre), and Wolf administration proxies.

Upon leaving the meeting, negotiators remained upbeat in their belief that property tax reduction or elimination will remain a significant source of bipartisan agreement in ongoing budget negotiations.

“I think all five groups—the four caucuses and the administration—are all interested in making this part of a final package,” Rep. Hanna told reporters following the meeting. 

Friday, June 26, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

Details of House pension plan emerge

House Republicans spent most of Friday morning and early afternoon caucusing on what is likely to be their version of pension reform, to be adopted as an amendment to Senate Bill 1 sometime in the next several days.

Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill), one of the House GOP’s top pension minds and a member of the Public Employee Retirement Commission, spoke to The PLS Reporter about the likely contents of that plan and what was discussed in those caucus discussions.

“I think members continue to be interested in some of the goals we’ve been trying to achieve for the last number of years, namely, shifting some risk from the taxpayer and out of the hands of a legislature that has not been able to manage a defined benefit plan and develop savings and provide some kind of a benefit for new employees coming into the system,” he said.

Friday, June 26, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Democrats decry Republican agreed-to budget prospects

Democrats decry Republican agreed-to budget prospects

House and Senate Democrats Thursday responded to reports of an agreed-to budget among the Republican caucuses that is likely to take more detailed shape over the next several days.

Legislative Democratic leaders held a closed-door discussion with Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday to detail strategy and plan for the coming days.

House Appropriations Committee Minority Chairman Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny) couched the coming budget proposal as “more of the same.”

“They’re really not serious about talking,” he said. “The governor and Democrats have been at the table and offered some things to them that have been pretty much ignored and they just want to do what they’ve done for the last four years and kind of go on their merry way with all their really non-budget, gimmick-filled budgets, missed opportunity budgets.”

Thursday, June 25, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views