Corbett: “Entrenched Interests” Preventing Pension Reform in Pennsylvania

Tom Corbett

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is trailing by double-digits in many polls to opponent Tom Wolf (D) – but his campaign strategy of pushing the need for pension reform appears to be unchanged.

Corbett has been the most vocal critic of his state’s pension system, but most of his fellow lawmakers – and voters, for that matter – have not reciprocated that enthusiasm for major reform.

On Monday Corbett said that “entrenched interests” are preventing pension reform. And those interests, according to the governor, have seeds in both parties.

Reported by the Intelligencer:

“There are entrenched interests out there,” the governor said. “The public sector unions are all against change … There are Republicans that don’t like me. I’m pushing change. It’s very hard to get change in Pennsylvania.”


Corbett traces the current pension problem to 2001.

That’s when the state Legislature boosted the retirement package for state lawmakers and judges by 50 percent and increased pensions by 25 percent for 300,000 active state workers and school employees. Corbett wants to roll back those increases to pre-2001 levels for current employees — an annual multiplier of 2.0 rather than 2.5 for employees and from 3.0 to 2.0 for lawmakers and judges — and place new employees in a 401(k) style retirement plan.

But the Legislature, backed by the might of public section unions, has stood in his way.

“We said to present-day employees, going forward, that we need to ratchet it back to two,” Corbett said of the annual multiplier. “Did you earn that (2.5)? I don’t think so. You did nothing new.”

Corbett said he favors the state rolling back the benefits and letting the courts decide when the unions sue. The real problem for taxpayers, he said, would occur once the issue landed in court because the judges who benefited from the enhanced pensions would be asked to rule on the matter.

“What judge in this state can hear that case?” he asked. “It’s an economic conflict of interest. … People should be upset with that. I say, let’s try it.”

Corbett re-iterated that, if re-elected, he would call a special legislative session to push through pension reform measures.

Gina Raimondo Wins Rhode Island Democratic Primary; Pensions Remain Campaign Issue

Gina Raimondo

Rhode Island Governor candidate Gina Raimondo has beaten out challengers Angel Taveras and Clay Pell to win the state’s Democratic Primary. From Politico:

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Raimondo led Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, 42 percent to 29 percent, with first-time candidate Clay Pell at 27 percent.

Rhode Island Democrats are hoping Raimondo can break a long streak of gubernatorial heartbreak: It’s been since 1992, when Bruce Sundlin earned a second two-year term, that a Democrat won an election for governor. Current Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who is not seeking reelection, took office as an independent but later became a Democrat as he pondered his electoral future.

The primary was of particular interest because of the pension issues surrounding the candidates, and the lack of public-sector union support for Raimondo.

Some further analysis of the outcome, courtesy of Daniel DiSalvo at Public Sector Inc:

Raimondo won for three reasons. First, in a three way race that included the Mayor of Providence Angel Taveras and Clay Pell, the 32-year old scion of former Senator Claiborne Pell, Raimondo enjoyed greater name recognition and outraised and outspent her opponents.

Second, the Ocean State’s public employee unions were divided between Taveras and Pell. Traveras had run afoul of the state’s teacher unions after a labor dispute in Providence and he had also supported pension reform, albeit a milder version than Raimondo. In short, the unions could either back Pell–the least experienced candidate–or they could chose between pension reformers. Some went for Pell, most notably the teacher unions, and others for Taveras. The lack of unity weakened the force of the public employee voting block.

Third, the labor movement was divided between public and private sectors–a phenomenon that has occurred frequently in recent years. Many private sector unions, concerned about the state’s business climate, backed Raimondo.

Raimondo will face Allan Fung in the general election. Fung, who is currently the mayor of Cranston, defeated Ken Block in the Republican primary.