Gov. Corbett's Budget Address Full of False Choices, Says AFSCME Council 13

Feb 05, 2013, 18:44 ET from AFSCME Council 13

HARRISBURG, Pa., Feb. 5, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In today's 2013-14 Budget Address Gov. Corbett has proposed non-solutions that only add billions more to the state's credit card in a smoke and mirror attempt to balance his budget while kicking the can down the road for future governors.

"Balancing the budget on the backs of our middle class and working Pennsylvanians is obviously the wrong approach," said AFSCME Council 13 Executive Director David Fillman.  "The governor has proposed putting workers who teach our children, care for our sick and elderly, maintain our roads and bridges and keep us safe, into a 401(k) type plan, trading the promise of retirement security for retirement insecurity.   Hard-working Pennsylvanians, our neighbors, friends and family members, have paid their fair share – up to 7.5 percent from each and every paycheck. And unlike their employer, these workers never missed a payment. Yet the governor never said anything about putting that money back in that was lost when the commonwealth didn't contribute their full share - and sometimes even paid nothing at all."

In 2010 public employees supported the Pension Reform Act – Act 120 (for new hires in January 2011) - and agreed to contribute more to the pension plans for reduced benefits and other changes that will cut an estimated $3 billion in future pension costs.  The 2010 reforms are working, and over time, will right the pension ship.  Act 120 will cost less than any 401(K) plan; and puts an end to ten years of underfunding these plans. In other words: no more 'kicking the can down the road.'

Currently, the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement Systems (SERS) is 65% funded.  In 1983 SERS was 59% funded.  In 2001 it was 130% funded.  "Obviously, there's a natural cycle to this system and Act 120 makes certain that we will bounce back.  Changing everything now would be catastrophic all around," said Fillman.  He added, "For the first time ever, we have more state retirees than state workers – and Pennsylvania's retirees have not seen a cost of living increase for over ten years."

Pennsylvania must not be fooled by the false choices the governor is offering.  We cannot trade retirement security for an effort to protect unnecessary corporate tax cuts, preserve the Delaware tax loophole and allow untaxed windfall profits from Marcellus Shale extraction. And we cannot allow the governor to hold hostage, school children and the State's Wine and Spirit store workers to get the legislature to strip workers of promised benefits and a modest retirement security.