The push for so-called pension reform has been a red herring for conservative lawmakers for years. By deliberately sabotaging the system through under-funding, and then misrepresenting to the public the dire state of the resulting unfunded liabilities, the right wing has been able to convince many people that the problem is with pensions. In reality, the problem has been one of mismanagement and irresponsibility on the part of our legislature.
The amended version of SB1 does nothing to address the budget, provides for no new sources of revenue to help pay the unfunded liability, and the supposed savings are dwarfed in comparison to the $26 billion that Act 120 will save over the next 25 years.
Act 120, passed in 2010 to address the unfunded liability in the pension system, made real reforms, and was the result of careful negotiations and shared sacrifice. As a result of the changes – taxpayers are no longer on the hook if fund performance dips when there is a recession. Employee contributions were increased and benefits were reduced – all to pay for the shortfalls caused when the ultra-conservative legislature stopped making full payments into the system.
The State House vote on SB1 today was one driven by ideology, not facts. In a race to the bottom, there is pressure to strip hard-earned benefits from workers, instead of looking for ways to expand opportunity and retirement security to all workers. But we should not engage in a race to the bottom. The labor movement in Pennsylvania has always maintained that a rising tide lifts all boats. Through our unions, we will continue to fight for fair wages, good benefits, and dignity in retirement for ALL workers. We make no apologies for social and economic justice in the workplace.
After final passage in the House by a vote of 106 to 89, SB1 now heads back to the State Senate for a concurrence vote. It reflects poorly on the proud history of the Pennsylvania General Assembly that we are now at a time when the legislature takes action to restrict, rather than expand, workers’ rights – and to reduce, rather than improve, the standard of living for working families in Pennsylvania. We will urge Governor Wolf to veto this misguided attack on workers.