It’s BAAACK! Pension bill finds new life

Under heavy fire, Democratic leaders schedule house votes for Monday

By Mike McGann, Editor,

Democrats have reversed themselves and now will allow a vote on a state pension reform bill.

It appears that the reports — including here — of the death of the pension reform bill turned out to be premature — state House Speaker Keith McCall has relented and will allow the pension bill and a handful of other bills come up for a vote next week.

That means that there is now still some hope that school districts such as Unionville may get some minor break on pension costs in the next couple of years — and some longer-term relief in terms of pension costs.

McCall, and outgoing Democratic Majority Leader Todd Eachus came under withering fire — largely from their own party and the state teachers union — for their decision not to bring the pension reform bill up for a vote. The original measure passed the house by a large margin, but state Senate changes — including adding a fiscal oversight board — meant that the house needed to give those changes and up or down vote.

Even with a voting session Monday, there’s no guarantee that the measure will pass. Some Democrats oppose the addition of the fiscal watchdog, while some Republicans area said to be pushing for a new version of the bill next year that would eliminate defined benefit retirement plans for new hires.

Still, a quick head count suggests that the Pennsylvania Education Association will likely get enough Democratic votes — PSEA is a major campaign contributor to many Democratic house members and is said to be worried that new bill taken up in the next term would be harsher on its members — while a number of moderate Republicans feel compelled to do something to address the growing pension crisis — and find the new fiscal watchdog panel a way to cut spending growth in the commonwealth.

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