Pension reform has been a center-stage issue since May in the race for Pennsylvania governor.
During an interview this week with the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Democratic candidate Tom Wolf forcefully doubled down on his position that pension reform isn’t the state’s fiscal priority. The exchange:
Q: How is the escalating cost of pensions impacting school financing in Pennsylvania, and what do you think should be done about it?
A: Our current pension situation is the direct result of almost 10 years of leaders in Harrisburg kicking the can down the road and the state paying less than its fair share. What we’re seeing from Gov. Corbett is more political games – he is pushing a plan that creates no immediate savings for taxpayers.
As governor, I will let Act 120 [a 2010 law reducing pension benefits to new employees] work and create innovative solutions that are fiscally responsible and fair and beneficial to taxpayers and future employees.
Corbett says the burgeoning cost of Pennsylvania’s public pensions is a crisis that requires prompt, decisive action. Wolf argues that it’s a problem that can be resolved in the years ahead.
Corbett wants to scale back pensions for future school and state employees as a meaningful step toward savings. He says the taxpayers’ share of the pension costs for current employees — $2.1 billion this year — is crowding out funding for other programs and helping drive up local property taxes.
Wolf contends that the pension problems are partly the result of the state contributing less than its fair share of the costs for nearly a decade and that a 2010 law reducing pension promises to future employees and refinancing existing obligations needs more time to work.
Act 120 was a 2010 law that reduced pension benefits for some employees but kept intact the current defined benefit system. Wolf has been adamant that the law needs time to work.
Corbett wants to shift new workers into a 401(k)-type plan.
Photo Credit: “TomWolfYuengling” by Tom Wolf. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons