June 18, 2010

PSEA and AFT-PA support bipartisan pension reform legislation

PSEA and AFT-PA support House Bill 2497 - bipartisan legislation to address the Commonwealth’s pension crisis by refinancing employer contributions and restructuring benefits for employees.

James P. Testerman, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, and Ted Kirsch, president of the AFT Pennsylvania, said the two organizations and other public sector unions support House Bill 2497, which the state House of Representatives amended today by a 199-0 vote. The measure is now in position for passage by the full House on Wednesday.

“Our organizations support the legislation as amended by the House as a balanced solution to address pension concerns, while preserving the defined benefits pension system for current and future school employees and reducing costs to taxpayers in 2011 and beyond,” Testerman said.

“We thank the members of the House for their unanimous vote, and we urge both the House and Senate to vote in favor of the legislation without further changes,” Kirsch said.

“Although we would have preferred not to have any benefit reductions, we believe this amendment will help solve the pension funding crisis and offset unprecedented layoffs, furloughs and cuts to academic programs faced by school districts,” Testerman said.

“This bill helps preserve and protect jobs and quality education now, and keeps the promise of a secure retirement in the future,” Kirsch said.

H.B. 2497 as amended includes actuarial changes that will allow the Commonwealth to manage the increases in contributions required from the Commonwealth and school districts to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System. The bill would also introduce benefit structure changes to new school employees hired on or after July 1, 2011.

Testerman emphasized that the unions will continue to oppose any attacks on the defined benefit features of PSERS, such as introduction of a 401(k)-type defined contribution plan, which could be offered as proposed changes to HB 2497.

“The defined benefit program from PSERS is better for school employees, school districts, and the Commonwealth,” Kirsch said. “It reduces teacher and school staff turnover, which contributes to a stable learning environment for children. And defined benefit plans provide investment capital to spur economic growth.”

Learn more and take action at www.psea.org/pensions.



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