House Majority Leader Mike Turzai stood with municipal leaders from around the state on Tuesday to press for legislative action this year on providing relief to municipalities from the crushing financial burden of police and firefighter pension systems.
Turzai, R-Allegheny, said it s an important issue that needs to be addressed. He believes a sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover, is a good place to get that conversation started but said he is not totally wedded to that proposal.
Grove's plan would preserve the pensions of current police and firefighter retirees and employees but move new hires in to a new hybrid pension system that would pay down over time the .7 billion unfunded liability that exists in those municipal pension plans.
His plan would provide some predictability to municipal pension contributions, limit how much overtime can be counted in municipal police and firefighter pension calculations, removes pension benefits from the collective bargaining process for municipal police and firefighters, provides for pension benefits to be portable within the state, and does not affect non-uniformed employees.
Grove's bill has sat idling in the House Local Government Committee for the past six months awaiting a vote.
House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said reforming the state and municipal pension systems remains a goal that lawmakers hope to achieve by the Nov. 30 end of the legislative session.
The municipal leaders made it clear that they are concerned that if their pension woes aren t addressed at the same time as reforms to the state pension system, it may fall off lawmakers radar.
There s never going to be another opportunity to gain the attention of the General Assembly to address the municipal pension problem, said Brian Jensen, executive director of the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh.A third of the state's municipal pension plans are considered distressed and almost every county has at least one municipality with a pension plan under a high level of stress.
Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray said he told a group of police officers that if he had to choose between the depleting resources of Social Security and their pension system, he would choose Social Security. "In the long run, Social Security is a lot more of a guarantee than the current pensions," he said.
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