CLEAR Leaders Urge Lawmakers to Reject Punitive Pension Proposal

Dec 02, 2015, 10:54 ET from CLEAR Coalition

HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leaders of the CLEAR Coalition are urging lawmakers to reject the so-called pension "reform" proposal now under consideration in both chambers and focus their time and energy on enacting a state budget that provides vital investments in public schools, colleges and universities, healthcare programs for seniors, and other social services.

"First and foremost, please understand that this "reform" bill will have no impact at all on the 2015-16 budget. This plan will not generate a single penny in savings," David Fillman, Executive Director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 13 and Chair of the CLEAR Coalition. "The pension proposal now being negotiated will jeopardize the retirement security for younger teachers, nurses, and state workers who will be forced into this plan. But it won't do a thing to help close our current deficit and get this budget passed."

Fillman added that the proposal would also make unconstitutional changes to the benefits of current teachers, nurses, and state workers - reducing current employees' monthly pension checks.

"We are now into our sixth month without a budget. It's time for lawmakers to get a budget done that will start to restore the devastating cuts that marked the last four years," said Rick Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. "Punishing workers and jeopardizing their retirement security is inexcusable."

Tom Herman, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 668, said that the attack on worker's pension was especially disappointing given that – once again – lawmakers are refusing to impose a statewide shale tax.

"Pennsylvania is the gift that keeps on giving for huge oil and gas interests. We're still the only large natural gas state that does not have a statewide tax," Herman said. "Instead of putting Pennsylvanians first, it appears that the Republican majorities are going after teachers, nurses and state workers. It's a disgrace."

The CLEAR Coalition also supports a fair budget that includes:

Revenue from stable and reoccurring sources. The CLEAR coalition strongly advocates balancing the budget by enacting common sense reoccurring revenue streams such as: ending corporate tax giveaways by enacting combined reporting to finally close the Delaware loophole, ending the sales tax vendor discount, halting the continued phase out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax, fixing the bank shares tax, and taxing smokeless tobacco and e-cigarette.

Modernization not privatization of wine & spirits stores. Dismantling the PLCB and jeopardizing up to 5,000 family-sustaining jobs and more than $584 million in taxes, profits and other transfers that the agency generated just last year must not be a part of any final budget deal. Privatization will actually cost Pennsylvania at least $408 million in the first year according to Public Financial Management (PFM) and the PFM found that privatization will cost more than $1.4 billion in transition costs over five years.

A Fair and adequate education funding formula. A fair funding formula must be adopted, along with a significant basic education funding increase that prioritizes schools that received the largest cuts in 2011-12.

Restoration of funding to Human Services. After years of funding cuts, flat-funding, and program reductions, it is essential that the final budget adequately invests in these programs that serve vulnerable Pennsylvanians.