June 14, 2016

House Gives Final Approval To Pension Reform Bill, Returns To Senate For Concurrence Vote

The House voted 136 to 59 Tuesday to pass Senate Bill 1071 (Browne-R-Lehigh) to establish a hybrid pension program for future and existing employees moving them from defined benefit to defined contribution plans.  The bill will have no immediate impact on the FY 2016-17 budget.
Gov. Tom Wolf released this statement on the House passage of pension reform:  “Today, in a bipartisan vote, the House overwhelmingly passed a pension reform compromise that will save billions of dollars while also reducing risk to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.
“I want to congratulate both Republicans and Democrats for coming together to find common ground on this issue, and I urge the Senate to move quickly to consider this important legislation.”
          The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate where it returns for a concurrence vote.  
Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Majority Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told PLS Reporter a key consideration is how much future risk is transferred away from taxpayers and put the risk on employees in a defined contribution plan.
          At the same time, Sen. Browne said, a key consideration is what the House can get votes for and actually get a pension reform bill passed.
Late Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) told PLS Reporter,”We have never committed to run it as is, so my guess is we may have some changes and we’ll go from there.”
House Majority Leader David Reed (R-Indiana) said, “I think [the Senate] will give it due consideration, and I think with the $5 billion savings not impacting any current employees or retirees, it’s going to be a very difficult decision to not send that directly to the governor’s desk and then within a matter of two weeks we’ve got liquor privatization and pension reform checked off.”
A copy of the Actuarial Note on the amendment is available online.
If concurred in by the Senate, this would be the second major bipartisan agreement on a key issues in two weeks.  The liquor reform bill passed and signed into law last week was the first.
This also follows bipartisan agreement on two other narrower, but contentious issues between Republicans and the Wolf Administration where final action is imminent.  These two issues are--
-- Senate Bill 1195 (White-R-Indiana) further providing for legislative review of any plan developed by DEP to implement the EPA Clean Power Climate Plan; and
-- Senate Bill 279 (Hutchinson-R-Venango) requiring DEP to start over to update its drilling regulations covering conventional oil and gas wells and creating the PA Grade Crude Development Advisory Council.
Both issues featured prominently in the recent resignation of DEP Secretary John Quigley.