$9,600 Debt Per Pennsylvanian

Every resident of Pennsylvania owes $9,600 in state and local debt as of 2009, according to Nate Benefield of Commonwealth Foundation. This does not account for the $3 billion deficit in unemployment compensation or the billions in debt assumed in the Gen Theft pension bailout .

And of course this doesn’t account for the money for which they are on the hook regarding the massive federal debt.

So Pennsylvanians, and the rest of Americans, are going to continue to become poorer until they develop skin thick enough to withstand being called “uncaring” and “hateful” by greedy government-connected types who use emotional blackmail as a means of acquiring wealth and power.

Benefield notes that Pennsylvania’s general obligation debt rose by almost $2 billion, or 28 percent, during Gov. Rendell’s reign of robbery.

On a related note, in Michigan, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has developed a plan in response to his city’s fiscal crisis that would end  services — including trash collection, road repair and fire/police/ambulance responses — to about 45 square miles of the city. Call it urban planning by Mad Max.

Pennsylvania, do you see your future?

Rendell Signs Gen Theft Bill

Gov. Ed Rendell, yesterday, as expected, signed the Gen Theft pension bill which bails out the state’s public pension system at a cost to the average household in Pennsylvania estimated by Commonwealth Foundation to eventually be  $1,360 per year .

Of course the pension plans bailed out by HB 2497 include the very sweet one received by our legislators .

The bailout was one of 22 last-minute bills signed into law by Rendell yesterday.

Rendell also signed HB 1639 , a significant  overhaul of the state’s child custody system and which makes gender-neutrality a requirement in contempt issues for willful violations of custody orders by either parent. Divorced fathers have testified that they have been unable to get action against their former wives for such violations.

Rendell did not, however,  act on HB 1231, which would define cancer as an occupational disease for firefighters making it easier for them to get workers’ compensation. He has until tomorrow to do so.

Nor has he acted on HB 1926 aka the Castle Doctrine which would end the requirement to retreat from a potential assailant before employing protective force. Rendell has until Monday to sign HB 1926. Don’t hold your breath on that one.

Pa. Gen Theft Bill Passes

The Pennsylvanian Generation Theft Bill — termed by its supporters “needed pension reform” — was approved by the State House this afternoon 165-31. It goes on to Gov. Ed Rendell for his certain signature.

It was strongly supported by government unions such as the PSEA. A roll call of the vote can be found at this link .

The first time the House passed HB 2497 on June 16 the vote was 192-6. The Senate passed it Oct. 16 by a 41-8 vote, however, it tacked on  amendments which required a new vote in the House.

On Nov. 5,
lame duck  Speaker Keith McCall  announced that his assembly would be
quitting for the year which would require the process to start from
scratch in January under a Republican-controlled House.

Five days later, however, he changed his mind.

HB2497 attempts
to resolve the severe funding shortfalls of  Pennsylvania’s largest
pension plans — Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) and
State Employees Retirement System (SERS) — by deferring pension
payments and increasing the unfunded liability by tens of billions of
dollars.

The bill makes some positive changes to the pension system such as doubling the amount of time to 10 years for a state employee to become vested; reducing the multiplier used to calculate pensions from 2.5 percent to 2 percent, and increasing the minimum retirement age for teachers to 65 from 62 and for state legislators to 55 from 50, it only applies to new hires

More importantly in provides for a re-amortization of existing debt over 30 years drastically increasing the interest cost.

Commonwealth
Foundation notes that the pension obligations are expected to be $5.8
billion on the taxpayer by 2012 — a six-fold increase from today —
which  translates to a  $1,360 increase in state and local taxes for the
average homeowner. The data can be found on a link to a  pdf file on this page.

There had been hopes that a defined contribution plan akin to a 401K would be introduced as per a bill introduced in the senate, SB 566.

‘Generational Theft’ Pension Bill Dead In Pa


Update: This bill is back from the dead.

The proposed Pennsylvania pension fix that one Republican leader called “generational theft ” is dead.

The State House  announced, Friday, that it will not return as expected nor in accordance with tradition, to address outstanding legislative matters to the ire of Gov. Rendell and Democrat interest groups such as the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

This means the bill must be started from scratch and when the House reconvenes Jan. 4 it will be in the control of Republicans and supported by a Republican governor. The senate had been and remains in Republican hands.

HB 2497 passed the House 192-6 on June 16 and was referred to the Senate which amended it and finally voted on it Oct. 16 when it passed 41-8.

The House, however, did not appreciate the changes the Senate made to the bill, especially concerning the creation of an independent fiscal office to check the governor’s revenue projections and spending reports

State Rep. Dwight Evans (D-203) of Philadelphia, who is the House Appropriations chairman, called the office costly and unconstitutional in a letter to his fellow House members.

State Rep. Sam Rohrer (R-128), who is the minority chairman of the House’s Finance Committee, said in June that the bill merely made minor improvements to the state retirement policy — none of which would apply to existing beneficiaries — but saddled future generations with 30-years of new debt.

IOW, so state leaders can still collect $313,000 pensions .

Pennsylvania taxpayers gave  $843 million this year to the two public-sector pension systems — Public School Employees’s Retirement System (PSERS)  and State Employees Retirement System (SERS) — that serve more than 675,000 current andretired state government and public school employees.

That contribution will increase to $5.8 billion within two years, according to Commonwealth Foundation.

On a totally unrelated note five of the top 25 paid public employees in Pennsylvania — all of whom earn more than $200K not counting benefits — work for either the PSERS or SERS.

Delco Tea Partyers Take Stand Against Gen Theft Bill

The Delaware County (Pa) Patriots, the county’s tea party group, has taken a stand against HB 2497 , which state House Finance Committee Minority Chairman Sam Rohrer has called generational theft .

The bill attempts to resolve the severe funding shortfalls of  Pennsylvania’s largest pension plans — Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) and State Employees Retirement System (SERS) — by deferring pension payments and increasing the unfunded liability by tens of billions of dollars.

Rohrer of the 128th District was only one of six to vote against HB 2497 when it passed the Democrat-controlled House on June 16. The bill with amendments passed the Republican-controlled Senate on Oct. 16 by a vote of 41-8.

The amendments required a new vote in the House, however, but on Nov. 5 lame duck  Speaker Keith McCall  announced that his assembly would be quitting for the year which would require the process to start from scratch in January under a Republican-controlled House.

Five days later , McCall changed his mind. The House will return on Nov. 15 when it is expected to vote on HB 2497.

The Delco Patriots note that the bill was crafted by the public employee unions who would most benefit from it and merely postpones the reckoning as to how to fund the burgeoning public pension obligations.

It is asking all taxpayers to contact their state representative and urge a no vote.

Commonwealth Foundation notes that the pension obligations are expected to be $5.8 billion on the taxpayer by 2012 — a six-fold increase from today — which  translates to a  $1,360 increase in state and local taxes for the average homeowner. The data can be found on a link to a  pdf file on this page.

A bill introduced in the senate, SB 566 , would create a defined contribution plan for new employees in which the employer would contribute 6 percent of salary into a retire-fund owned by employees with a matching amount coming from the employee.

‘Generational Theft’ Pension Bill Back From Dead

The ‘Generational Theft ‘ pension bill that is expected to allow the sextupling of the annual pension burden on the Pennsylvania taxpayer to  $5.8 billion  has crawled back from the dead like a zombie stalking a Pittsburgh shopping mall.

Lame duck Speaker Keith McCall announced, today, that he is calling the State House back in session on Nov. 15 when it is expected to approve the changes made by the state Senate to HB 2497, the official name for the theft bill. The House passed the bill 192-6 on June 16.

McCall had announced on Friday that the House would not be returning to the anger and fear of The Pennsylvania State Education Association and Gov. Ed Rendell both of which implored the Democrat-controlled House to change its mind.

Which the walking dead Democrats did to nobody’s surprise.

The House passes to GOP control in January.

Pennsylvanians don’t get your hopes too high.

An FDR Answer For Pension Pain

There is a simpler path to solving the problem of Pennsylvania’s citizen-crushing public pensions than instituting limited Marxism as suggested at this link. Granted invoking the use of U.S. law rather than communist ideals might lead to less cooperation from  public school teachers and other government workers who would be most affected by policy changes. One supposes, though, it can be solemnly intoned “to each according to his needs” to get them on board as the government spigot is shut.

Chapter 9, Title 11 of the United States Code is the bankruptcy provision for governmental bodies. It was instituted in 1937 during our last depression when the previous means of resolving municipal debt — actions of mandamus in which courts compelled tax increases — proved infeasible.

The law notably makes it easier to re-write collective bargaining agreements approved when times were flush and the Dow was seen to be reaching 30,000.

Granted there are obstacles in taking such a route. The legislators who now sit in Harrisburg and who would be needed to sign on would take a major hit if their pensions were limited. As would the governor. As would the state judges who would be asked to rule on cases by those objecting to the policy.

And of course, you would have to deal with smart-alec teen-aged sons and angst-ridden teen-aged daughters coming home from classes taught by those teachers  unwilling to help the needy asking you “WHY DO YOU HATE???!!!!”

But with enough will it can be done and our lives can become better.

Something’s Gotta Give On Public Pensions

Something’s Gotta Give On Public Pensions — Pittsburgh’s ever-shrinking pension fund was valued at $272.2 million on June 30 and had a liability of $989.5 million. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wants to lease the city’s parking meters and garages by which he hopes to raise¬† $200 million to dump into it and stave off a state takeover.

As though the state doesn’t have pension financing issues of its own.

And that brings us to reality.

Neither the state nor municipal tax burden can be increased without, ultimately, impoverishing the unconnected class which most of us happen to be albeit the Democrat-voting side of “us” doesn’t generally believe it. Meanwhile, there are necessary government services that need to be funded. Pensions, as mean as it may be to say, is not one of them. In other words, the people fixing our roads and patrolling are streets are not the ones receiving pensions. Granted, they expect to. They consider pensions to be part of their wages and if they should see those who have gone before lose their pensions they might not patrol the streets as diligently or even stop altogether, but that just gets us to the next matter which is how to resolve the issue.

One is to let reality run its course. If, for example, the fund has to cough up $989 million but can only pay out $272 million, divvy what is there and walk on. It’s not like it’s never happened in the private sector .

That, however, would be extraordinarily cruel. One would expect in the case of Pittsburgh a lot of those pensions are going to secretaries and garbagemen and are not all that big in the first place, and trying to live on 28 percent of it would be extremely hard.

A better, kinder and much more moral approach would be to set a limit on outlays to, say, $40,000 regardless of whatever was in the contract until Pennsylvania’s economy can grow itself out of the deficit. This would apply to every state and municipal worker from every living governor on down.

One can survive very easily on $40,000. One unwilling to accept this sacrifice in this present crisis was never worthy of holding authority in education or on the bench or in the legislature, anyway, and should consider it due chastisement.

Something’s Gotta Give On Public Pensions

Something's Gotta Give On Public Pensions

To The Pennsylvanians

The great English poet William Wordsworth in response to a certain U.S. commonwealth shamelessly defaulting on its debt in 1837 wrote this:

To The Pennsylvanians

Days undefiled by luxury or sloth,
Firm self-denial, manners grave and staid,
Rights equal, laws with cheerfulness obeyed,
Words that require no sanction from an oath,
And simple honesty a common growth–
This high repute, with bounteous Nature’s
aid,
Won confidence, now ruthlessly betrayed
At will, your power the measure of your
troth!–
All who revere the memory of Penn
Grieve for the land on whose wild woods his
name
Was fondly grafted with a virtuous aim,
Renounced, abandoned by degenerate Men
For state-dishonour black as ever came
To upper air from Mammon’s loathsome den.

Does Pennsylvania need another Wordsworth today? Why? The words from 1837 don’t need any changing.

Pa. In Top 4 In Legislative Pay

Pennsylvania’s state legislators are the fourth best paid in the nation, according to The Pew Center of the States. At $78,314, it puts the wonders of Harrisburg  just behind third place New York ($79,500) and second place Michigan ($79,650) but with a ways to go to catch the champ which is California at $95,291.

What’s interesting about the rankings is that it correlates nicely with the listing of states with the greatest fiscal problems. Someone may be respond with the claim “correlation does not equal causation” and the proper response to that would be “Ho, ho, ho. You want to buy a bridge?”

BTW, the Reading Eagle has a column noting the state House members worked 119 days last year while our senators clocked in for 81. Maybe that’s why they buy into the claim that public school teachers are overworked.

And of course, the Pew list doesn’t account for all the neat little perks Pa. solons get. Maybe Pennsylvania’s fiscal crisis is even worse than it seems.

Hat tip to Tony Phyrillas