State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Lawmakers angle for tens of billions in federal restitution

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 17, 2017 7:43 PM
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A group of House members--mostly Republicans--has moved a resolution asking for federal restitution on the basis that they think post-recession financial practices hurt states. (Photo by AP)

 

(Harrisburg) -- Some state lawmakers are trying to get restitution for what they see as bad US Federal Reserve policies during the recovery of the housing market.

The ask? Around $20 billion dollars.

The state Treasury would be required to lobby the federal government for those funds under a resolution that recently passed committee in the House.

The practice at the core of the resolution is quantitative easing, or QE.

It was used by the Federal Reserve to buoy the floundering US economy after the 2008 market crash; essentially, the central bank bought bonds to pump money into the financial system and lower interest rates in hopes it would help the economy recover.

There's still intense debate on whether it worked.

Lebanon County Republican Frank Ryan, the resolution's sponsor, thinks not. That's the thesis behind his bill: he said states deserve repayment for reduced returns on government bonds while QE was in effect

"The real reason for bringing this up is, one, I'd like to get the money for the commonwealth," he said. "But I'm really trying to bring up the fact that we've got some real dangerous financial issues facing us shortly, and if this thing goes haywire, we'll never be able to pay those liabilities."

Ryan estimates the commonwealth's roughly $70 billion unfunded pension liability would be around $20 billion dollars lower if QE hadn't been used, give or take a few billion depending on the assumed rate of return used in calculating the overhead.

Most committee Democrats opposed the bill. Minority chair Matthew Bradford said it reaches "beyond the scope of the House State Government Committee."

Ryan conceded it might be a long shot, but said there's no harm in trying.

No other states have introduced similar resolutions. The state Treasury declined to comment.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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