State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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After 11th-hour attempt, lawmakers unable to seal deal on pensions

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 27, 2016 5:57 AM

Pension overhauls have been attempted several times in recent years. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- In the final hours of Wednesday's legislative session, state lawmakers took yet another stab at an overhaul of the commonwealth's heavily indebted state pension system.

The issue has long been a legislative priority.

Several previous efforts have fizzled and now, once again, lawmakers were unable to come up with the necessary votes.

Late Tuesday night, the legislature formed a special conference committee that quickly passed a pension proposal on to the House and Senate.

It would have given public employees three different retirement plan options--two hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution plans, and a third defined contribution plan, similar to a private 401k.

But party conflicts were apparent even then. The two Democrats on the six-person committee voted against the bill, saying it cut benefits too much and didn't save enough money.

Ultimately, legislative leaders decided not to run it. House Majority Leader, Republican Dave Reed, said the votes just weren't there.

"We got up to 99--probably the closest we've ever come on a pension bill that everybody knew was going to become law," he said. "We were three votes short."

Not a single Democrat supported the proposal. Senate Majority Leader, Republican Jake Corman, blamed Governor Tom Wolf for that.

"It is unprecedented," he said. "I can never think of a time where a governor wanted something--as he claims he did, he claims he wanted it--who provided zero votes. Zero."

A spokesman for the governor said he'll continue to work with lawmakers on the issue.

Corman said the legislature may try to pass pensions again next session, but nothing is certain.

For now though, the bill is dead.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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