Pension Reform Roadblock: Gov. Union Executives

For Immediate Release
Commonwealth Foundation
Contact: 717-671-1901

Government Union Executives Again Stand in the Way of Reform

Pension Bill Stalls in House Despite Looming Crisis

July 1, 2014, Harrisburg, Pa—Yesterday, Gov. Corbett withheld his signature from the state budget in a bold attempt to force action on substantive pension reform. Today, despite near-universal acknowledgement of a looming pension crisis, the House pension vehicle was sent back to committee—a move backed by government union leaders.

“With $50 billion in pension debt and warnings from three major bond rating agencies, our state pension crisis will take a major toll on taxpayers and teachers alike,” commented Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Yet, despite the threat of higher taxes, lower bond ratings, and more teacher layoffs, government union executives continue to fight any and every reform proposal.”  

Leaders of the PSEA and AFSCME, among others, have used taxpayer-collected union dues to mislead the public and their own members in an effort to retain the status quo. For years they have denied that there is a problem, supported underfunding pensions for their own members, and lobbied against multiple attempts at reform.

Recently, the PSEA even called the Tobash hybrid plan “a new attack on YOUR retirement security” and proclaimed “Gov. Corbett wants to balance the budget at the expense of your pension” in action-alert emails sent to members throughout the state.

Benefield continued:

The pension crisis is even now causing belt-tightening in school districts around the state, which are forced to choose between cutting staff and programs or raising taxes. Pennsylvania’s taxpayers already suffer under the 10th highest tax burden in the country, yet government union executives are pushing additional taxation as the only solution to the problem.

Pension cost increases over the next four years are equivalent to the salaries of 33,000 teachers, or tax increases of $900 per household. It's shocking and disappointing that government union leaders would ignore and even lie about this pending crisis.

Nathan Benefield and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment on the obstacles to pension reform.

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The Commonwealth Foundation, founded in 1988, crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.