Pensions 'gift' keeps on giving
The 2001 pension grab will continue to hit Pennsylvania taxpayers' wallets indefinitely.
That's the view of activist Eric Epstein, who recently compiled a study of state pensions collected by lawmakers who voted for and against the 2001 measure. That vote raised pensions for legislators by 50 percent and teachers by 25 percent.
While a Wall Street tailspin crushed the investments of two state pension boards, the 2001 pension boost clearly played a role in an ongoing pension crisis, Epstein says.
The top three House members voting “yes” walked away with tidy retirement pay:
• $286,118 for former Rep. Frank Oliver, a Philadelphia Democrat
• $130,896 for the late Rep. Elinor Z. Taylor, a Chester County Republican
• $120,261 for former Rep. Merle Philips, R-Northumberland County
And in the Senate, convicted felon and ex-Sen. Robert Mellow, a Scranton Democrat, topped out at $138,959. He is appealing the loss of his pension while sitting in federal prison.
Ex-Sen. Raphael Musto, a Luzerne County Democrat, collects $127,033 despite an indictment on corruption charges.
Former Sen. Allen Kukovich, a Westmoreland Democrat, was third with $98,951, according to Epstein's research.
The vote in the House was 176-23. In the Senate, the pension grab won 41-8.
Lawmakers can start collecting benefits at age 50, an age where most Pennsylvanians are looking at 15 or more years of work before they can afford to retire. But these folks who voted for larger pensions are not necessarily retired.
Of the eight Senate no votes, former state Sen. Allyson Schwartz, a Montgomery County Democrat running for governor, is collecting an $18,340 state pension along with a $174,000 congressional salary.
Another “no” vote, former Sen. Charlie Dent, R-Lehigh County, gets $16,439 on top of his congressional pay.
Another member of Congress, former Sen. Jim Gerlach, a Chester County Republican who voted for the pension grab, collects an additional $15,441 on top of his congressional salary.
Those figures were part of a report by Harrisburg's ABC/27 TV.
Legislators also can walk away with lump-sum payments based on what they paid into the pension system plus interest. Oliver was king of the hill with $416,000. In the Senate, Richard Tilghman, of Montgomery County, was highest at $394,809. Mellow, who now faces additional charges of corruption stemming from a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission scandal, took $331,025, according to Epstein's report for his organization, Rock the Capital.
His report also has some interesting nuggets on the pension-vote crowd:
• Seven lawmakers earned post-graduate degrees, the majority law degrees, while serving in the “full-time” Legislature.
• Twenty current or former lawmakers also served on state financial boards including pension panels — a sure sign that substantive pension reform is unlikely, Epstein says.
• Fifteen former lawmakers now work or worked in “government relations” (i.e., lobbying), some of them collecting pensions.
• Nine current and former lawmakers have Harrisburg residences, presumably paid with $160 per diems. That figure varied over the years.
• Eleven ex-lawmakers have been convicted of crimes; three of the convictions are under appeal.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 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.
- Penguins notebook: Winning home games crucial for Penguins
- Icy roads, bridges trigger minor accidents in Western Pennsylvania
- Heart stent implanted, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg goes home
- Police identify driver in North Side crash that killed pregnant woman
- Penguins GM prepares for emotional series against Carolina
- Nonprofit plans to keep Blairsville WyoTech campus open as part of $24 million purchase
- Pipeline project could bring thousands of construction jobs to Burrell Township
- Pryor’s 22 points lead Robert Morris past Louisiana-Monroe
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger says Saints game is ‘must win’
- Lack of money may crush ISIS
- Four of five Blairsville-Saltsburg schools improve state performance scores