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Trib editorial: More reform needed to curb outrageous state-pension payouts

| Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz departs after his sentencing hearing at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg last June. Schultz and two other former university administrators were each sentenced to at least two months in jail for failing to alert authorities to a 2001 allegation against ex-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. (AP Photo | Matt Rourke)
Former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz departs after his sentencing hearing at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg last June. Schultz and two other former university administrators were each sentenced to at least two months in jail for failing to alert authorities to a 2001 allegation against ex-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. (AP Photo | Matt Rourke)

Despite facing a shortfall of about $70 billion, Pennsylvania's public-pension systems lavishly enrich a few former state employees while most get far more modest payouts. Consider some pension-data findings from The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.

The average 2016 payout to Pennsylvania's 127,000-plus former employees or their beneficiaries was $27,722. But “a separate class of Keystone State pensioners” get “checks that alone put them among the top tier of all income earners” nationwide: Twenty collect more than $215,000 annually, while 500-plus collect $100,000 or more.

Even after pleading guilty to child endangerment in the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal, former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz collects $330,699 annually. But even big-bucks public-pension recipients untainted by criminal disgrace surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of taxpayers.

That's because they fund the salaries that — combined with such factors as service time and highest average salary over a three-year span — produce outrages such as former Penn State President Rodney Erickson's $477,590 annual payout. As the Commonwealth Foundation's Rick Dreyfuss says, “If you don't manage the base pay, then the whole thing is going to continue.”

If Pennsylvania's public-pension systems are ever to be solvent again — and if Pennsylvanians are ever to believe those systems are fair to rank-and-file state employees — further pension reform must curb these eye-popping payouts for favored elites.

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