Unjust reward: Peduto’s early retirement plan is a giveaway

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One of Bill Peduto’s first mayoral initiatives smells familiar — and foul.

Mr. Peduto, a member of city council who will become mayor in January, introduced a resolution that would put city taxpayers on the hook for up to an estimated $2 million a year in order to provide what he calls a “soft landing” for some workers who don’t want to stick around for his administration.

His idea is to temporarily relax the pension eligibility rules for 132 nonunion employees. Currently, they can’t retire with full benefits unless their age and years of service total at least 80 — for instance, someone who is 60 and has worked for the city for 20 years. Mr. Peduto would cut that total to 70, as long as the employee is at least 50 years old.

Fortunately, the city’s already underfunded pension program wouldn’t take the hit under Mr. Peduto’s plan, but it’s still a bad deal for taxpayers. The city’s operating budget, funded by tax dollars, would cover the extra spending to encourage workers to resign. That’s a gift that the fiscally strapped city cannot afford to give.

This plan sounds like a new version of the old house-cleaning method of governing — getting rid of employees loyal to your predecessors and replacing them with your own people. Mr. Peduto’s future chief of staff, Kevin Acklin, says that’s not true. As the saying goes, if it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it just might be a duck.

Mr. Peduto talks tough in saying the people in his administration “will be expected to perform, not just show up,” and Mr. Acklin says there will be “a new system of greater accountability and transparency.” Pittsburghers are all for holding employees to high standards. The problem is paying people extra so they don’t have to try.

If workers don’t do their jobs, Mr. Peduto can take the necessary legal steps to remove them. If they choose to leave the city’s employ rather than go to work under his terms, they are free to resign. These employees have been compensated for the work they’ve done on the city’s behalf and, when they do become eligible for retirement, they’ll receive the pension benefits they’ve accrued. They’re entitled to that and nothing more.

City council should reject Mr. Peduto’s proposal.

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