HARRISBURG – May 13, 2015 – A leading group of Senate Democrats today wrote to the Public Employee Retirement Commission (PERC) to express grave concerns about the process surrounding Senate Bill 1, a massive overhaul of the pension system for public employees.
PERC itself raised red flags about the expedited legislative schedule, which rendered them unable to fully examine the proposal.
Milliman, the actuarial firm hired by the commission to review Senate Bill 1, included the following note in their analysis:
“Due to time constraints dictated by the Commission for providing this actuarial note, we are providing this letter without a complete review of all facets of the legislation nor all actuarial cost projection information used by the system actuaries in their analyses.”
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) joined with Democratic Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), and Democratic Finance Chairman John Blake (D-Lackawanna) to call on PERC to use the authority granted to it to provide recommendations to the General Assembly to improve transparency and provide a timeline when considering legislation related to public pensions.
“Senate Republicans have abandoned the principals of an open and transparent government to ram through an illegal bill that could radically diminish retirement benefits for hundreds of thousands of state and school district workers,” said Sen. Costa. “We need to identify a better process than considering a 410-page bill with only 72 hours notice.”
The timeline for Senate Bill 1 has been extremely rushed, lawmaker said.
There was a hastily called Finance Committee meeting on Monday, May 11, where the bill passed along party lines. Senate Bill 1 was then considered by both PERC and the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on Tuesday, May 12.
“It now appears that this bill—which legal observers believe is unconstitutional and illegal—may be voted on final passage today,” said Sen. Hughes. “It’s simply unconscionable to consider something of this magnitude on such a fast timeline. When you have Milliman acknowledging problems with the process, that should be enough to stop the wheels of destruction from moving forward.”
PERC was created to ensure that lawmakers can make informed decisions about pension legislation. That is why Senate Democrats have called on the commission to make recommendations to the General Assembly on how to guarantee that future legislation is considered in a more transparent manner.
“We have an obligation to the public to fully consider all legislation, especially something as complicated as pension reform,” said Sen. Blake. “I hope that PERC will respond to our request and create a process worthy of the importance and consequences of any legislation affecting our public pension systems.”