Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Municipal pensions, charities; Harrisburg's bike share

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Apr 6, 2015 12:03 PM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, April 7, 2015:

Nearly half of Pennsylvania's municipality pension funds don't have enough money.  In fact, the City of York has one of the largest pension shortfalls in the state.  York Mayor Kim Bracey has called on the state legislature to help reform the Pennsylvania municipal pension system.

A proposed state constitutional amendment that would give the legislature more control over which nonprofits are designated as public charities could potentially impact the amount of real estate tax that municipalities can factor into their budgets.

WITF's Emily Previti appears on Tuesday's Smart Talk to discuss the financial issues facing Pennsylvania's municipalities as part of our collaborative Keystone Crossroads project.

Keystone Crossroads is producing a series of features that focus on municipal pensions beginning later this week.  Be sure to tune in.

Also on Tuesday's program, Bike Share Harrisburg is a partnership of Harrisburg organizations and businesses that is about to launch a bike share program in the city. The program will include bicycle kiosks in eleven locations with 100+ bicycles throughout the city - including HACC, PennDot, and the Amtrak station - where residents can rent bicycles to make one-time or frequent trips throughout the city.

The program's organizers say Bike Share Harrisburg seeks to provide an affordable, low-impact commuting option that improves community connectivity, city culture, and the environment.

Bill Sutton, Chair of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Green Building Council of Central Pennsylvania joins us to discuss the initiative.

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  • Lisa img 2015-04-07 08:27

    How we fund pensions and pensions themselves should never have been put into the state constitution. This was done by state politicians solely to protect their overly generous compensation packages and is now crippling school districts and small municipalities. Time to remove pensions from the constitution so that they can easily be changed as financial times require it.

  • Jim img 2015-04-07 08:34

    I made an on air comment. I am a military retiree. I accomplished 21 years, went to places I did not want to go to, could have been killed. Our local POLICE and FIREFIGHTERS will go to houses, not sure what is on the other side of the door. They arrive to save and protect YOU.

    A caller made the comment that things change, and sited A&P employees having to accept less. I get it. Yet if you really feel that the people putting their lives on the line to run into your burning house to save you and your family, are no better than folks working in retail, then next time you have an issue, call the food store or retail outlet & see whom they send over.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-07 08:40

    Tom in Carlisle emails:

    Even if the PA Constitution were amended, ex post facto would still prohibit changes to pensions prior to the data of enactment. Amendments must be passed in two consecutive legislative terms (4 years) and survive a referendum.

    This will do nothing to solve the underfunding. The bills must be paid.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-07 08:42

    Scott emails:

    I think it merits mentioning that the pension benefits of teachers and public workers are PART of their compensation, not an addition to it. Teachers earn about 30% less than similarly educated workers in private jobs, having a pension plan makes it possible to serve in a position where they don't make as much to save for retirement.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-07 08:48

    Sherry emails:
    The state hasn't been very smart in dealing with the state pension and they are largely at fault. For example, a few years ago the number of years to be vested was reduced from 10 to 5. I was an educator, (retired now) and I saw retired educators from other states come to Pennsylvania, work 5 years, and then retire. Now they have two pensions from two different states. I worked for 30 years as a teacher in the state. I worked for and deserve my pension. I didn't play the pension game.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-07 08:56

    Lauren from Harrisburg writes:

    can you ask your guest why it's necessary to disrupt traffic patterns on front street for the sake of bike riders who already have a designated area to bike along river front park?

    I'm all for people biking, but they already have a safe bike path on front street, it seems like a waste of money when there are other areas where a safe path does not already exist.

  • gp img 2015-04-07 08:56

    I think Jim's case illustrates one problem we have with pensions. As I recall his comments, it would seem that he has been drawing a pension for as long as he paid into it. I'm guessing that he is still relatively young and could wind up drawing a pension for twice as long as he paid into one. You don't have to be a mathlete to understand that is unsustainable. It may not solve the current problem but we should change the system for future pensioners. Like Social Security give people reduced pensions if they want to start collecting at an earlier age and don't allow a person less than 62 to collect at all. This could be adjusted for careers that are more physically demanding but there are rolls that older police and firemen can fill too.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-07 08:57

    Manuel from Carlisle emails:
    I love traveling to Miami Florida, and Washington, D.C. because I am able to borrow bicycles to ride around the cities and get exercise at the same time.

    For tourist locales, these programs are great.

  • Jim img 2015-04-07 09:13

    The comment from gp img 2015-04-07 08:56 does make a good point. I hit basic training at the age of 18, retired at 39. YES, I agree with GP's point. Yet, at the time I enlisted, I was given the parameters which I had to live with, and the parameters that the American Government made. I didn't always agree, yet I fulfilled my end.

    The military did try making a change to how it does military pensions for new recruits. If I recall correctly, there was a drop off in enlistment numbers.

    For our cities, you want the best and the brightest to be your police, Emergency Medical Persons and firefighters, the ones YOU rely on to save you when the time comes, you need to make their risk vs. reward attractive and that they can trust what WE the citizens promise them. An alternative is to pay more and make them responsible for their own retirement accounts.

    Perhaps it is time to reign in pour spending on unimportant items which do not address the greater good. Of course, that is a whole nother issue of what is important to each of us.