Wolf to PERC: “You’re Fired!”

Gov. Wolf has a history of trying to fire individuals who won’t kowtow to his agenda. He tried to remove Erik Arneson as head of the independent Office of Open Records—a move the state Supreme Court ruled illegal; he replaced David Meckley as the chief recovery officer in York; and he demoted Bill Green as chair of the School Reform Commission in Philadelphia.

Now, Wolf is targeting the Public Employee Retirement Commission (PERC), trying to shut down the entire agency. What’s PERC’s great ‘crime’? Apparently, evaluating pension legislation before lawmakers vote on it. In other words, if Wolf can eliminate PERC, he can effectively roadblock pension reform.

But there’s a problem. The law establishes PERC as an independent agency to evaluate state pension systems and legislation and offer cost and benefit assessments. While PERC members are appointed by legislative leaders and the governor, Wolf has no legal authority to unilaterally disband PERC. But Wolf seems focused on retribution against PERC for refusing to bow to his dictates.

As Capitolwire (paywall) reported last month, when Wolf line-item vetoed PERC’s funding:

According to the aforementioned sources, the Wolf administration wanted PERC to hold a meeting early in December, well before the commission could have an actuarial analysis done on the pension reform proposal…

In the absence of an analysis done by Milliman, PERC’s contracted actuarial firm, the commission was supposed to accept the figures offered by the pension systems and the Wolf administration.

[PERC Executive Director Jim] McAneny refused to do that – allowing Milliman to subsequently find a few errors within the legislation, including one that erased an estimated $630 million in long-term savings – instead pushing for his agency to do one of its many important jobs. However, his decision appears to have put in jeopardy PERC’s ability to do much of anything going forward.

PERC’s function as an independent arbiter serves—and protects—taxpayers. Relying solely on actuaries who are on the payroll of the same system they’re charged with evaluating is hardly a winning strategy for government accountability.

Wolf’s dictatorial actions clearly undermine the prospect for future pension reform, while sending the clear message: If you don’t do the governor’s bidding, he will simply eliminate your job.