September 20, 2010

PSEA calls on state Senate to end delays, pass responsible pension reform

PSEA President Jim Testerman called on the state Senate not to repeat the mistakes of the past, and to pass a responsible pension reform measure when the lawmakers return to Harrisburg this week.

Testerman urged the state Senate to pass House Bill 2497 when the lawmakers return to session on Sept. 20. The state House of Representatives passed HB 2497 in June by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 192-6 vote.

“The Senate has an opportunity to do the right thing by addressing a serious problem now, and not compounding the problems of the past decade. Previous General Assemblies have underfunded the public employee pension systems over the years, and this General Assembly intentionally did so again in June in the state budget, when they chose to contribute only two-thirds of what the PSERS actuaries determined was appropriate,” Testerman said. “Not only is this legislature not repaying the existing debt, but their low payments this year are increasing debt for the future.

“It’s time to end the delays and discussions of so-called solutions that don’t address the unfunded liability of state employee and public school employee pensions,” Testerman said. “Each delay only increases the cost of solving the problem.

“It’s one thing to lower your payments as part of a long-term plan, such as HB 2497, to repay the debt in a reasonable manner. It’s something else altogether to simply not make the responsible payments to your current plan,” said Testerman.
House Bill 2497 as passed by the House, would restructure debt payments in a predictable manner. According to the Public Employee Retirement Commission, an independent state agency which performs financial and actuarial analysis of proposed pension legislation, the measure would eliminate the so-called “pension spike” by spreading out payments and make changes to the benefits of state and school employees that will reduce future benefit costs by more than 60 percent.
“PSEA supports HB 2497 because it represents a balanced solution for addressing the pension crisis,” Testerman said.

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