State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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House GOP positions placeholder budget bill

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 9, 2014 5:41 PM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

House Republicans are starting up the procedural side of the state budget process by introducing a bill meant to be a placeholder for whatever is negotiated.

The measure is identical to last year's budget and likely bears no resemblance to what will ultimately pass as a spending plan.

As lawmakers try to figure out what a bare-bones budget will look like, Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) said his party is trying to advance a plan to change pension benefits for future employees - without help from the minority party. Republican supporters say the measure would bring pensions in line with what the state can afford, but Democrats say it doesn't protect future workers.

Vereb said the minority party might not like what happens if the bill doesn't pass this month.

"This is a tough decision so this isn't something that's easy to cheer around and cheer behind, especially in the Democrats' side of the aisle," Vereb said. "So what we have to do and what I think they need to understand is that talk is cheap, and if for some reason there is a Democratic governor next year, this is going to be their baby, because we certainly will say we have tried."

The proposal would largely reduce retirement benefits for future state and public school hires, enrolling them in a split plan that is part traditional pension, and part 401(k)-style plan.

Vereb said it's still not clear if House Republicans have the votes on their own to pass the pension changes. Even if the measure is sent to the governor's desk, the state will still be saddled with pension debt nearing $50 billion.

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