‘Pouty’ Dems kill pension reform bill

Commentary: Unionville, school districts across state suffer because Democratic house leaders refuse to vote

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
Talk about validating the voter’s choice.

Just three days after losing control of the state House of Representatives, Democratic leaders Keith McCall and Todd Eachus announced that the house would not take up the state teacher pension reform bill sent back to the house from the State Senate — meaning the entire pension process will have to be restarted, from the beginning in January, meaning the odds of meaningful remedy of the state pension crisis is very unlikely before schools set their 2011-12 budgets.

It’s a decision that could lead to a nasty teachers strike in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District — as now the school board will have virtually no room to negotiate, seeing as it is increasingly likely that it will have to find a way to pay a 25% increase in teacher pension costs starting in 2012 — a cost likely to be in the millions of dollars.

Eachus, defeated Tuesday in his reelection bid and McCall, who is retiring from the house, apparently didn’t see the urgency of getting something done and taking the burden off of local school boards, such as Unionville’s.

Frankly, as someone who has carried the Democratic banner more than once on the ballot, I’m profoundly embarrassed and mortified. I don’t know if it is self-pity or angst over being turned out of office, but it is reprehensible that McCall, Eachus and so on lack the cojones to bring the house back in and debate the changes to the bill — giving the bill a fair up or down vote. Although many Democrats disagreed with the changes made by the state Senate, head counters suggest that there would have been enough votes to send the bill to Gov. Ed Rendell’s desk — and the governor indicated that he would have signed it.

Even the Pennsylvania State Education Association — the teachers union — seemed to be caught unaware of this seeming political temper tantrum, and was urging members to call their state representatives to support the bill, which passed the house in its original form by an overwhelming majority. One would hope that the PSEA pauses for a moment and remembers this well when Democratic candidates and the House Democratic Campaign Committee come around asking for money and help in 2012.

At best, this is unfortunate, at worst it is political malpractice — something that can and likely will be used for years as evidence that Democrats cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of the state and its residents.

In leaving the state’s school districts and taxpayers holding the bag — in effect for some $4 billion — for no reason beyond seemingly being pouty about the election results is completely unacceptable.

Sadly, this means that Democrats across the state now are going to have to work that much harder to restore a broken trust — if that’s even possible. Voters owe it to themselves to ask the tough questions of Democrats standing for office, whether it be school board, commissioner in 2011, and most certainly in 2012, those seeking to run for state legislature.

Either way, there are no winners from this decision, only losers. The taxpayers and students of Unionville will surely suffer from this low-rent move — and frankly, this is utterly inexcusable.

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