State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

For local police, bill would replace 965 pension plans with one

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 7, 2013 9:10 PM

One state lawmaker is envisioning a statewide pension plan for local police, instead of the vast array of smaller, municipality-specific funds for officers.

The idea is to take the hundreds of individual municipal police pension funds and gradually switch to a statewide plan. In that plan, Rep. Glen Grell (R-Cumberland) said members would still get defined-benefit pensions, but they wouldn't get automatic benefit boosts known as cost-of-living adjustments.

"It would be mandatory for any new municipal police officers anywhere in the state and it would be optional for plans that want to convert into the statewide fund," said Grell. He added would support a statewide option for non-police municipal employees as well, but he didn't want to take that big a bite of the apple just yet.

"Sometimes you have to take baby steps. So you know, we're trying to promote it just for police plans, but there's no reason, if it proves to be effective, that it couldn't expand to include municipal pensions," Grell said.

He's of the mind that winnowing down the vast number of local police plans would save municipalities money.

The most recent state report on municipal pensions shows there are 965 different plans for local police and that most municipal plans contain fewer than 10 people. The same report shows the cost per member goes down as the membership of the plan increases.

Grell said he's proposed something similar to this plan in the past, and put it on the back burner to focus on overhaul proposals for the two state pension plans.

""It's a little bit sensitive whether we should move forward with telling municipalities how to fix their pension system before we fix those at the state," Grell said.

With the state-level pension overhaul effort stalled, he said he's ready to put a municipal pension plan change back on the tracks.


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