Vote expected on plan to overhaul Pa. pension system

     After a Pennsylvania Senate committee approved it Sunday, a measure that calls for overhauling the state's two heavily indebted public pension systems is expected to be put to a vote Monday at the Capitol in Harrisburg. (AP file photo)

    After a Pennsylvania Senate committee approved it Sunday, a measure that calls for overhauling the state's two heavily indebted public pension systems is expected to be put to a vote Monday at the Capitol in Harrisburg. (AP file photo)

    A Pennsylvania Senate panel Sunday evening moved a bill that’s been dogging the Legislature for four years.

    The measure would rework the structure of the state’s two heavily indebted public pension systems, a change the bill’s supporters say would mitigate risk to taxpayers.

    However, the proposal does little to reduce the state’s massive pension debt.

    Like several previous GOP pension proposals, it would shift the state’s retirement plan to a three-tiered, 401(k)-style system — effectively reducing benefits for new hires.

    But it does not mean significant savings. And the Independent Fiscal Office reported that costs would actually increase slightly in the near term.

    The state’s current pension debt is roughly $70 billion, and it has consistently missed its projected returns on investment.Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said the point of the bill is to protect taxpayers from future pension cost fluctuations.

    “There’s nothing to say that we’re at our ceiling right now, so if we continue to fall short on our investments, these pension costs are going to continue to skyrocket,” said Corman, R-Centre. “By doing this bill today, we’ve now reduced the risk.”

    The measure didn’t garner universal support from the Senate Appropriations Committee — it passed in a mostly party-line vote before an expected full floor vote Monday. Following extensive behind-the-scenes negotiations, supporters said they are confident it will have enough support to pass.

    Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will sign the bill if it passes the Legislature.

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