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PNS Daily News- February 15, 2019 


Shutdown averted and a national emergency declaration; A push in Iowa for virtual caucus attendance for 2020 primaries; and concerns about legislation that could hide oil pipeline records. Those stories and more in today’s news.

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Teachers: Lawmakers Holding School Budget Hostage to Threaten Pensions

PHOTO: Some Pennsylvania teachers are sharply critical of legislative leaders they say are holding the state budget hostage in partisan push to privatize pensions and cut benefits. Photo courtesy of the PSEA.
PHOTO: Some Pennsylvania teachers are sharply critical of legislative leaders they say are holding the state budget hostage in partisan push to privatize pensions and cut benefits. Photo courtesy of the PSEA.
May 11, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Some teachers in Pennsylvania say Republican legislative leaders should get their knuckles rapped for using debt problems, created by many of those same lawmakers, to threaten public pensions.

Economic analysts say tax cuts and reductions in state pension contributions have made a $2 billion structural deficit and downgraded the state's credit rating.

Mike Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, says now Republican leaders in the state Senate are telling the press they won't pass a budget until public employee pensions are privatized and benefits are cut.

"This is a manufactured crisis," Crossey says. "They want to hold children and school funding hostage so they can destroy the pension system that provides retirement security for over half a million Pennsylvanians."

Senate Bill One is designed to push new public employees out of the traditional pension plan and put them into 401K style plans. Crossey says it also would cut current benefits, which he says is probably unconstitutional because it's a breach of contract. But Crossey says the basic problem is a debt issue, not a pension issue.

"If it's just like if you have a credit card and you don't pay your bill every month, that debt builds up," he says. "With Senate Bill One, what they want to do is wipe their hands free of that debt and say 'Unh-uh, it's not our problem.'"

Crossey says a better idea would be Governor Tom Wolf's plan to fund pension bonds by modernizing state liquor stores.

According to the PSEA, the teachers' public pension system has existed for nearly a century, surviving two world wars and the Great Depression.

By comparison, Crossey says three states have tried privatizing teacher retirement plans and it's failed every time. He says traditional pensions are more stable, cost less in the long run and are more efficient. But he says some in the Legislature are tied to privatization by political ideology.

"That far-right wing wants to privatize everything, turn everything over to Wall Street," he says. We've seen how well Wall Street can do when you look at what they did in 2008."

Lawmakers say the benefits are too high and the state can't afford them. Crossey says the average retiree gets about $25,000 a year. He says the state could easily afford that if it had kept up its contributions.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - PA