Don’t count on Pa. pension overhaul, government watchdog says

    A perennial critic of Pennsylvania government says his group’s latest research on lawmakers’ efforts to gift themselves higher pension payments is the clearest indication of why pension reform is doomed.

    For several years, government reform activist Eric Epstein and his group, Rock the Capital, have been tallying up the costs of the late-night pay raise state lawmakers approved for themselves in 2005.

    The raise was short-lived, but Epstein says other “gifts” lawmakers gave themselves continue to cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    “The system is controlled and dominated by moochaholics,” he said Wednesday. “They’re mooching away.”

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    In 1995, lawmakers approved automatic cost-of-living pay increases for all state government employees, themselves included.

    In 2001, they voted to increase their legislative pensions by 50 percent, while state workers and teachers got a 25 percent pension bump.

    Epstein says his latest round of records requests prove that boosted payouts live on, thanks to the efforts of their beneficiaries.

    “If you want to know why there’s not going to be pension reform, it’s that the people most likely to benefit from it control the system. And it’s not just the Legislature,” he said.

    Epstein includes in that list state employees and the next of kin of deceased lawmakers as well.

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