Corbett won't recommend state pension crisis solutions
By Debra Erdley
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
The Legislature and other stakeholders must develop ways to overhaul the state pension system, which a new report has shown doesn't have $41 billion needed to pay future pension obligations, a spokeswoman for Gov. Tom Corbett said.
The governor will not issue specific recommendations for tackling the issue, said Corbett spokeswoman Christine Cronkright.
“As far as we're concerned, the next step is concerted work with the Legislature and other stakeholders to develop concrete ways that we can address the pension issue in Pennsylvania. … We cannot develop solutions in a vacuum,” she said.
Jerry Shuster, a political communications professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said Tuesday it is not surprising that Corbett is approaching the issue gingerly even though Republicans control the governor's office and both chambers of the Legislature.
“This is one time where being in the majority is a disadvantage. I think the Democrats are going to sit back and say, ‘Let the governor make a proposal, and we'll see how it works out,'” he said.
Many public employees consider pension promises a sacred trust, said Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College, who paid into the state pension system when he worked at Millersville University.
He acknowledged the problem is pressing. The $41 billion unfunded liability is about one and half times as large as the state's annual budget, and state contributions are increasing every year.
“It's not just a hot potato, it's a monster hot potato,” Madonna said.
One Pennsylvania pension fund covers state employees; a second covers public school workers.
No one wants to be remembered for inflicting pain on large public employee unions with powerful political action committees, Shuster said.
Union officials say that appears to be the Corbett administration's approach by ruling out new taxes and suggesting that there may be a way to reduce benefits that current workers earn in the future.
Mike Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said suggesting a future reduction sets up false expectations since Pennsylvania courts have consistently held that pension benefits of public employees cannot be adjusted.
David Fillman, executive director of AFSCME Council 13, which represents 45,000 state employees, said the administration's pension report on Monday offered no new solutions for a problem that has been growing since lawmakers boosted pension multipliers in 2001 and then failed to make the state's full contributions when market returns were strong.
Employees didn't create the problem, he said.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Drug company buys Duquesne prof’s cancer research
- Smaller transit service funds intact under new Pa. transportation plan
- Energy drinks, alcohol don’t mix, study finds
- Pittsburgh Foundation’s Wishbook features 48 nonprofits
- North Side market’s ‘good run’ comes to end
- Feds to oversee PHEAA, other student loan contractors
- Newsmaker: Kacey Marra
- Nation increasingly at odds over use of ‘God’
- Environmental Charter School wants to offer high school classes
- Success of Strip District properties spawns ideas to add residential projects
- Pittsburgh Poison Center warns of krokodil