Sen. Blake: New Pension Reform Law Only Starts Correction

HARRISBURG, June 12, 2017 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today released the following statement regarding the state pension systems reform contained in Senate Bill 1 that was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf this afternoon.

“I commend my colleagues in the legislature and Governor Wolf for the bipartisan work done to facilitate a five-party agreement for significant pension reform.  Senate Bill 1 starts the correction of our broken pension systems and begins to shift risk off of taxpayers by introducing the public sector equivalent of a 401k for future employee benefits, but it does not go far enough.”

 

“Senate Bill 1 does not affect existing employees or those already receiving a state pension and it does not add to our unfunded liability.  There are, however, reform proposals that could have had much greater, immediate and long-term impact than the $1.4 billion savings over 30 years projected for Senate Bill 1.  There are also near-term costs associated with the implementation of Senate Bill 1 and none of the projected savings will begin to be realized for another 20 years.”

“As the Democratic Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I remain disappointed that many other good ideas which could have had a much more substantive impact on our Commonwealth’s finances – both with respect to our General Fund deficit and our daunting unfunded pension liabilities – were not adequately considered in the debate on this particular bill.  This pension reform is only the start of the correction.  We cannot consider our work concluded unless and until we seriously begin to address the $70 billion in unfunded liability and find ways to provide relief to our school districts whose budgets continue to be overwhelmed by these legacy costs.”

Video of Senator Blake’s floor remarks on Senate Bill 1 are available at the following link:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riWNBPZPj_E

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Senate Dems Express Grave Concerns About Pension Reform Bill

HughesCostaBlakeHARRISBURG – 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.”

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View Letter to PERC →

View Letter to Senate Republicans →