Press Releases

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 10:29 AM

A Senate panel voted Sunday night to change pension benefits for all new school employees and most state workers after 2018.

The state Senate voted today on a bill to drastically change retirement benefits for most state employees and all school employees hired after 2018.  The 40-9 vote came a day after the Senate convened for a rare Sunday night session to begin moving the bill, which seeks to reduce the long-term risk associated with taxpayers bailing out the state’s two debt-ridden pension plans in bad economic times.  The Republican-controlled Senate's vote moves the bill to the GOP-controlled House, where it is expected to also be approved and sent to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's desk for his signature.  The bill would move affected workers from a fully backed taxpayer-funded pension plan in which retirements benefits are guaranteed regardless of Wall Street performance to a so-called hybrid plan. That hybrid would keep about half of workers’ pensions in the taxpayer-backed guaranteed plan. The other half would go into a corporate-style 401(k) plan that goes up and down with the market, reducing taxpayer exposure by more than 50 percent.  New workers could also elect to have all retirement benefits placed into a 401(k) instead of one of two hybrids.  “This is the largest risk transfer in a public pension system of our size in the nation’s history,” Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Sunday night.  The hybrids would also reduce retirement benefits by 18 percent for new school employees and by 16 percent for most new state workers compared to current employees hired after 2010.

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Source: Steve Esack Contact Reporter Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau June 4, 2017.

 
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 10:23 AM

The Republican-controlled legislature is racing to send Gov. Wolf a long-sought bill by week’s end that would overhaul retirement benefits in Pennsylvania’s two debt-riddled public pension plans. The Senate approved the bill Monday in a 40-9 vote, and the House is expected to vote by Thursday on the measure, which seeks to shift some, if not all, benefits for future state and public schools employees into 401(k)-style plans. The goal is to create pension plans that cost less state money and do not hold taxpayers entirely liable for backing them, regardless of how the markets perform.  A spokesman for House GOP legislative leaders said there are enough votes in the chamber to pass it. Wolf, a Democrat, has said he supports the legislation.  On the surface, it looks like a deal, but no one is calling it done.  Less than two years ago, a pension-reform effort imploded at the eleventh hour, prolonging the budget impasse in Wolf’s first year in office.

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Source: Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis, Harrisburg Bureau @AngelasInk acouloumbis@phillynews.com Updated: JUNE 5, 2017 — 6:40 PM EDT.

 
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 10:21 AM

But the numbers that appear to matter are the votes legislative leaders expect it will get in the General Assembly.

HARRISBURG (June 4) – During a rare Sunday evening session of the state Senate, a pension bill that doesn’t appear to save any money for or shift much risk from taxpayers was positioned for a final Senate vote on Monday.  The Senate Appropriations Committee, on a near party-line vote, adopted two amendments to the bill, the original version of which was nearly identical to the bill reported from a conference committee late last session that failed to get voted by either chamber of the General Assembly.  Proponents of the new bill, Senate Bill 1, say this time around, the measure will win approval in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, which during the last four or five years, has been the more difficult chamber of the two in which to find enough votes for a pension bill.  “To get a bill that can be passed by the Senate, passed by the House and signed by the governor means compromise,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, following the committee meeting about SB1. “This is far, far better – significantly – and still provides a good benefit. I’m not going to quibble and say this bill save more money than that bill … What I’m going to say is this is what can get two chambers to pass, and the governor to sign, and that’s the most important thing, because the other bills couldn’t, so therefore they don’t save anything.”

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Source: Capitolwire: PSBA Website POSTED ON JUN 5, 2017 By Chris Comisac, Capitolwire Bureau Chief.

 
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 10:19 AM

One of the oddities of this week's public employee pensions debate is how so many of the state's major public sector unions are sitting it out.  They have, after all, reliably opposed most pension reform measures since passage of Act 120 in 2010. Until now, the combined forces of their Democratic and Republican allies in the state House have been just enough to stop other bills in their tracks.  This time?  No pitchforks. Just crickets.  And that, so far at least, is giving more labor-sensitive Republicans and some Democrats license to support the current bill, which passed the state Senate on a 40-9 vote Monday afternoon.  Later Monday, the bail passed a preliminary vote in the House State Government Committee, keeping on course for a final passage vote in that chamber on Thursday.  Major public-sector unions like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Service Employees International Union (both state workers) and the Pennsylvania State Education Association (school teachers), have all agreed to stand silent on this bill.  Only one major union is singing in a different key - the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which sent a letter opposing the bill to lawmakers last Friday.  There appear to be two major reasons for this mass stand-down by organized labor, according to sources familiar with the discussions:

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Source: Penn Live BY CHARLES THOMPSON  cthompson@pennlive.com Updated on June 5, 2017 at 9:19 PM Posted on June 5, 2017 at 5:54 PM.

 
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 10:13 AM

The Democratic Wolf administration and Republican legislative leaders have overcome deep partisan division with an agreement to do ... well, not much.  Senators conducted a rare Sunday session to advance a supposed pension reform bill that does nothing to reduce the vast amounts of money that the state’s two big and vastly underfunded pension systems will suck out of the state and school district budgets for the next three decades.  After months of secret negotiations among the Republican House and Senate majorities and the Democratic administration, the key question that emerged is: What took so long?  The bill cannot be construed as true reform. The state and school districts will continue to shake down taxpayers to cover the unfunded pension liability at the same rate as now, while shifting any change well into the future, onto people who have not yet been hired by schools or the state government.

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Source: Times Tribune BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD / PUBLISHED: JUNE 6, 2017.

 
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 10:11 AM

Most rookie teachers and newly minted Pennsylvania government employees would see a smaller retirement benefit in the coming decades through the state's two big debt-plagued pension systems, under legislation that passed the Senate on Monday and has the backing of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.  The Republican-controlled Senate's 40-9 vote could be followed by swift House action this week to send the just-unveiled bill to Wolf's desk.  The bill is the product of months of closed-door negotiations and more than four years of Senate Republicans pushing to end or reduce the traditional pension benefit for future state government and public school employees in favor of a 401(k)-style benefit. If it becomes law, it would be the second pension benefits reduction of future employees in eight years, both spurred by a debt tied to the pension benefits of current and retired public employees.  The bill, unveiled Sunday, would create a less expensive and less generous pension benefits structure in the future, while also shifting some risk of investment losses off taxpayers and onto the public employees of tomorrow.

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Source: WESA By MARC LEVY, ASSOCIATED PRESS, 1 HOUR AGO June 5, 2017.

 
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 9:58 AM

The state Senate on Monday passed a pension reform bill that would give most future state and school employees three choices for retirement savings, none of them would be exclusively the guaranteed pension plan current employees have.   By a vote of 40-9, the Senate approved the bill that was a product of closed-door negotiations involving the House and Senate Republicans and Democrats and Gov. Tom Wolf's administration.   "This is the medicine that will move us forward in a way that future Legislatures will be proud of," said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, during a near hourlong floor discussion of the bill.  Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County, said the plan ensures workers will have retirement income that is over 95 percent of their take-home pay when they were working once Social Security income is included.

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Source: Penn Live BY JAN MURPHY   jmurphy@pennlive.com Updated on June 5, 2017 at 4:58 PM Posted on June 5, 2017 at 1:50 PM.

 
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 8:49 AM

School leaders are speaking out against a bill that could limit a school district’s ability to challenge a property assessment and, they say, could cost districts millions in revenue.
Allentown Morning Call, June 5, 2017
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017 8:48 AM

House Bill 1403 and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 709, would end practices that embarrass a child when their family is behind on lunch payments. 
ABC Channel 27, June 5, 2017
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017 8:47 AM

The state Senate voted 40-9 Monday to reform Pennsylvania’s public pension systems by creating hybrid pension plans for new government workers.
Sharon Herald, June 6, 2017
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