Expect Pa. lawmakers to focus this year on pension reform - abc27 WHTM

Expect Pa. lawmakers to focus this year on pension reform

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You can expect Pa. state lawmakers to be hard at work this year on the problem of pension reform.

There are a handful of plans being considered by legislators, including one by Republican Cumberland County Representative Glen Grell. As he puts it, if there was an easy solution to state pension reform, it would have been done already.

"There's going to be pain," he said. "There are going to be big ugly numbers but the idea is to come up with something that spreads the pain around a little bit."

Grell said employer contributions to state pensions is around 17 percent. He says that will be over 30 percent about three to four years from now.

"That will devastate even the most financially sound school districts in the state, if we don't do anything," Grell said.

The biggest stumbling block in coming up with a solution is how to deal with current state workers. Those already retired and collecting a pension will not be affected. Cuts have been made for future workers.  But some believe that's not enough.

"Just putting together a new plan for future employees really won't allow you to solve much of the problem," Grell said. "It will help, but it won't allow you to address the heart of the problem."

Lawmakers are going over a handful of plans and will be looking for a consensus. The unions will have to be part of that consensus. While the various sides may have different interests, they appear to agree that something must be done soon.

"We're supportive of Representative Grell's efforts," said Wythe Keever, spokesman for the Pa. State Education Association. "We're not supporting his legislation at this time, but what we have said to him is he's taking a serious look at a very complicated issue."

The state teachers union feels Grell's plan doesn't do enough to address the costs of benefits already earned by workers.

"It needs further study," said Keever. "But we are supportive of Representative Grell's efforts and we look forward to having more conversations with him in the future."

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