Governor reiterates call for pension legislation; budget signing on hold



HARRISBURG — The standstill over the state budget continued through a second day of the fiscal year Wednesday as Gov. Tom Corbett again urged legislators to send him a bill remaking the pensions of future state and school workers.

Mr. Corbett said his office continues to review the $29.1 billion state budget legislators approved late Monday. He added he is waiting for the fiscal code, legislation needed to implement the budget, which the House was preparing Wednesday night to send back to the Senate.

The governor declined to say how long he is willing to go without a state budget in place.

“That is still on the table,” the governor told reporters at the Capitol. “I want to see what kind of progress may occur. There are some days left.”

If the governor were to refrain from signing or vetoing the budget, it would become law July 11. His administration has said federal funds and money remaining from previous state appropriations will allow the government to operate for the time being. Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are the only U.S. states that began the new fiscal year without enacted budgets, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Mr. Corbett also declined to say he would withhold his signature if lawmakers do not send him legislation remaking the retirement benefits promised to future state and public school employees, but he said pension costs are growing at an unsustainable pace. More than 99 percent of school districts requesting permission to raise property taxes more than a permitted amount cited the cost of pensions, he said.

After the governor reiterated his call for pension legislation in the announcement that he would withhold his signature from the budget, the House on Tuesday brought the bill to the floor, only to have members send it to a committee whose chairman had criticized the proposed changes.

“It was disappointing to see members use a procedural maneuver to disguise the fact they cannot stand up to the special interests,” Mr. Corbett said Wednesday.

Shortly after his news conference, House Republican leaders began an effort, ultimately successful, through a committee vote, to return the bill to the floor but said they would not attempt to pass it until the fall. The governor in a statement praised the vote as “the first step but … a critical one.”

The plan in question would close to new workers the traditional pensions of the State Employees’ Retirement System and Public School Employees’ Retirement System, instead enrolling them in a hybrid plan that would combine a limited pension with a 401(k)-style plan for annual income of more than $50,000.

Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley.


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