Pennsylvania Lawmakers: Municipal Pension Reform Needed

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Two Pennsylvania state Representatives – Rep. Seth Grove (R) and Rep. Keith Greiner (R) – have penned a column on Lancaster Online arguing for the reform of municipal pension systems.

Specifically, they argue for reforms that would remove pension negotiations from the collective bargaining process and would transfer new hires into a cash balance plan.

Grove and Greiner explain:

Gambling with pension funds needs to end by both local governments and employee unions. Pension negotiations need to be permanently removed from the collective bargaining process to ensure that our police and firefighters are not at risk of having their pensions destroyed, and taxpayers aren’t put on the hook because of short-term and short-sighted decisions.

These two fixes are both long-term solutions, but what can we do in the short term? The answer is change the pension benefit structure for new hires to a cash balance pension plan. A short-term solution will require new revenue to reduce the unfunded liability. A cash balance plan allows municipalities to use excess stock market earnings to pay off the unfunded liability.

Instead of raising taxes or creating new taxes, this allows the pension plan to fund itself. The cash balance concept also has long-term taxpayer protections built in. New hires will have their own accounts, just like a 401(k), which allows them to transfer their retirement between jobs and ensures taxpayers are not on the hook for future underfunding of pensions.

It also provides employees with the ability to take their retirement by monthly payments, which is just like a traditional defined benefit plan. And since a cash balance pension concept is considered a defined benefit pension plan by IRS guidelines, you can still combine pension funds together and ensure you do not underfund the old pension systems. Lastly and most importantly, it will not affect our current public safety personnel’s pensions, but will ensure that new hires will still receive a good pension, which they deserve.

We do not want to honor the dedication and service of public safety personnel by putting them in the poor house after retirement. However, we also do not want to shift costs from pensions to welfare.

Ultimately, these changes are actually about hiring more police and fire personnel and protecting the pensions of current police and fire personnel.

Furthermore, the changes are about ensuring that all municipalities across Pennsylvania are financially stable and that commuter taxes go away. There are tremendous upside benefits to all stakeholders.

Read the entire piece here.

Video: Pennsylvania Lawmakers Host Town Hall On Pension Reform

State Reps. Seth Grove (R-Dover Township) and Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Berks) hosted a town hall meeting on state pension reform in early August.

But the video has just recently hit YouTube, and it’s worth watching if you’re interested in the various proposals currently sitting in the Pennsylvania legislature.

Tobash is a legislative appointee to the Public Employee Retirement Commission; he is also sponsoring a pension reform bill that would switch new hires into a hybrid-style 401(k) plan.

Pension360 covered Tobash’s reform proposal last week.