DECEMBER 2013, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News
Public employees pension debt to be huge topic in 2013
BY PAUL TUCKER
REGION, December 5th- Public sector unions in Pennsylvania are getting ready for another battle with Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett and conservatives in the state General Assembly in 2013 when they will attempt to cut retirement benefits.
Mike Crossey, the President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), which represents approximately 190,000 active and retired school teachers and employees in Pennsylvania, reacted to the Keystone Pension Report which was released on December 3rd by Governor Corbett’s budget secretary.
Mr. Crossey noted that the report stated what PSEA has said all along, that the public employees of Pennsylvania and taxpayers did not create the pension problem.
Mike Crossey emphasized that teachers, nurses, and other public employees across the Commonwealth already pay for a significant portion of their pensions, and have made their contributions on time. The pension shortfall was caused by politicans who failed to make their appropriate contributions to the pension system.
“To blame Pennsylvania’s budget problems on debts employers owe to the pension systems is to make a scapegoat of working people who have contributed to their Pensions, year in and year out,” Mr. Crossey stated.
He emphasized that the report’s vague suggestions to change the future retirement benefits of current workers are unconstitutional, unethical, and won’t solve the problem since it would not address the pension debt.
“And in reality, it is Covernor Corbett’s prior budgetary decisions that are the true cause of Pennsylvania’s budget problem. Governor Corbett made a conscious policy decision to provide more than $800 million in corporate tax breaks, including the capital stock and franchise tax and bonus depreciation credit, which cost the state $760 million, more than the projected pension debt owed in 2013-2014 fiscal year.
Mr. Crossey added that just two years ago public employees in Pennsylvania helped pass Act 120 to pay down the debt employers owe the pension systems. “Now, the governor wants to walk away from it and break a promise of retirement security for teachers, nurses, libraians, and public safety workers, in order to honor a no-tax pledge to Grover Norguist,” added Mr. Crossey.
Mr. Crossey remarks on the pension issue comes on the heels a newly released study indicating the funding cuts to school districts have resulted in increased class sizes, eliminated program offerings, and shutting down tutoring programs for struggling students.
Mr. Corbett signed into law in June 2011 a state budget that cut $860 million from public schools. This year’s budget included another round of cuts to education.
Overall, in the past two budgets Mr. Corbett has cut more than $1 billion in education funds which has caused havoc on Pennsylvania school districts, forcing them to dramatically reduce or eliminate student programs and causing them to raise property taxes.