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Lawmaker tries to opt out of pension program, but can't - abc27 WHTM

Lawmaker tries to opt out of pension program, but can't

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

York County Senator Scott Wagner (R) was sworn in on April 2.

The day before, on April 1, he signed papers opting out of the state's pension system.

Basically, Wagner told the state, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Cumberland County Representative Stephen Bloom (R) did the same thing before taking office a few years ago.

"I wanted to make sure I was not getting sucked into it," Bloom said. "So I came down here and signed the papers to refuse to participate."

In addition to Bloom, the Chief Clerk of the House identified 12 Republicans (Gabler, Truitt, Fee, Kampf, Lawrence, Simmons, Saccone, Swanger, Sankey, McGinnis, Topper, Frederick Keller) and four Democrats (Donatucci, Davidson, Barbin, Sims) who have rejected pensions.

That's 17 out of 203 representatives.

Representative Eli Evankovich - (R) Armstrong, Westmoreland Counties - would like to add his name to the list.

"I would like to withdraw from the plan," Evankovich said.

Upon election in 2010, Evankovich signed up for the pension, but after studying the pension crisis in Pennsylvania (an estimated $40 to $50 billion unfunded liability), he wants out.

"I found out that there's actually a state law that prohibits people from withdrawing from the pension plan after they've entered into the pension plan," Evankovich said. "It's like a roach motel. Everyone's welcome, but nobody's welcome to leave."

"It's absurd," Bloom said. "Certainly absurd for the taxpayers, because we have an opportunity for legislators to choose to get out of something that would save the taxpayers money, and they can't get out of it."

The law in question, Chapter 243.1 in the benefits code, says, "The election of membership or nonmembership is irrevocable and shall be final and binding in the absence of an interruption to Commonwealth Service."

Basically that means once a worker opts into the pension plan they can't get out unless they quit or die. Bloom is working on a bill to change the law and let public employees, let taxpayers off the hook.

"If you have legislators who want to save the taxpayers money, by all means, we should let them do so," Bloom said.

Evankovich wants to get out and says a law that forces him to continue enriching himself just doesn't feel right and doesn't look right.

"It's a system that feeds into the public's fears of corruption, of politics as usual," Evankovich said. "I believe that here in Pennsylvania we have to change those perceptions and I think the pension is a big part of that."

The Chief Clerk of the Senate said there are two Republican members who refuse the pension: Scott Wagner of York County and Mike Folmer of Lebanon County.

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