Today, Speaker McCall called the Pennsylvania House back into voting session on November 15th. Members are expected to vote a couple of key pieces of legislation including the ill-conceived pension reform bill (HB 2497). Holding a lame-duck session after the sweeping changes in the midterm election is ill-advised on its own. But holding a lame duck session to force through a union pension bailout is particularly unscrupulous.
But don’t just take our word for it, the editorial board of the Times-Tribune writes:
Better to start over with a newly constituted Legislature and aim for true reform. That would include rolling back the unsustainable and indefensible benefit increases that lawmakers awarded themselves (50 percent), teachers and state employees (25 percent) in 2001.
Many reform options are available. . . such as the ubiquitous 401(k), that are now the standard in the private sector.
All of that requires detailed economic analysis that can’t be completed by the end of a lame-duck session this year. Even more so, it requires political will for true reform that the current Legislature already has proved not to possess.
And the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editors are of the same mind:
The real tears should have been shed in the summer, when it became clear that House Bill 2497 didn’t solve the $4 billion funding problem, but only kicked it down the road by a few years.
Instead of fixing the problem once and for all, the latest legislation in some ways would make it worse. This “reform” would reduce the public’s contributions to the funds in the early years, only to stretch the debt out into the future and require higher payments between 2026 and 2042.
Pennsylvania needs a transition away from the traditional defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, like a 401(k), to which employers and employees would still make contributions. Without such a major change, the state has no hope of truly grappling with the challenge.