Lawmakers confront $40 billion shortfall in Pa. pension funding

    It’s never too early to start planning for retirement.

    But as Pennsylvania lawmakers gear up for their brief fall session, they’re hoping it’s not too late to start reforming state employees’ retirement plans.

    Gov. Tom Corbett has compared the state’s pension debt to a PacMan poised to chomp away at the rest of the state’s budget.

    Expect to hear more from state lawmakers mulling how to shrink the PacMan.

    The stakes couldn’t be higher, says Sen. Pat Browne.

    “We’re potentially looking at tax increases at the state level. It’s very likely we’ll look at tax increases for school districts,” said Browne, R-Lehigh. “And either one is not acceptable.”

    The state’s pension systems are underfunded by about $40 billion.

    The current budget allocates $1.1 billion to pay down that debt; the payment is expected to grow to $4 billion by 2016.

    Lawmakers are also considering proposals to change state employee pension plans to resemble something like a 401(k)-style plan.

    But such a move alone would not reduce the debt.

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