Historic Pension Bill Moves Closer to Becoming Law
Skyrocketing public employee pension costs have created serious challenges, both in the state budget and school district budgets alike. At the state level, pension obligations have increased six-fold since 2010, choking out any significant new investments in worthwhile programs and straining taxpayers with new burdens. Pension costs are also the top culprit behind significant property tax increases at the local level.
Due to the numerous obstacles created by the pension crisis, many lawmakers made pension reform a top priority this session. After nearly a decade of hard work and compromise, I was proud to support legislation this week that would make structural changes to the pension systems going forward to provide a competitive retirement benefit for teachers and state employees while at the same time limit financial risks to taxpayers.
The bill only applies to new hires. If you are a retiree or a current employee, the reform measure would not change your benefits in any way.
The bill creates a new system for new employees that offers three different retirement options, all of which contain a retirement savings option that is similar to the 401(k) plans offered by most employers in the private sector. This approach will help make pensions more affordable and predictable for taxpayers, while at the same time providing a benefit for new employees that mirrors what they would receive in the private sector.
More information about Senate Bill 1 is available here.
This week, I co-chaired a public hearing to examine issues pertaining to the statewide radio system for emergency responders and the roll out of the P25 State Police statewide radio system.
Senate Panel Supports an Independent Inspector General
The Office of Inspector General is one of Pennsylvania’s best mechanisms to identify and eliminate waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars in agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction. The Senate State Government Committee recently approved a bill I sponsored that would offer this office the independence it needs to continue its mission of ensuring public resources are not abused.
Currently, the Inspector General is a cabinet-level official who is appointed by, and reports to, the governor. The office only continues to operate under Executive Order, meaning that it could cease to exist at any time if the governor chooses to eliminate it.
Senate Bill 527 would establish the Office of Inspector General in statute so the office can operate independently and not be subject to potential consequences at the hands of the Administration they are investigating. The bill would allow the important work of the Inspector General to continue without the threat of gubernatorial influence or interference.
The General Assembly passed similar legislation last year, but it was vetoed by Governor Wolf.
I appreciated the chance to meet with the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC Keystone) Young Professionals Committee in Manheim recently.
REAL ID Grace Period Extended
The federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently extended Pennsylvania’s REAL ID enforcement grace period through July 10. A Pennsylvania driver’s license or photo ID card will continue to be accepted as a valid form of photo identification to enter federal buildings, military installations and nuclear power plants during that time period.
The General Assembly passed a new law last month that will help Pennsylvania comply with the federal REAL ID Act. Without that legislation, driver’s licenses and photo ID cards would no longer be accepted as valid identification for entrance to federal facilities, and would not be accepted for air travel after January 22, 2018.
It was a personal honor to vote in the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee to support Governor Wolf's nomination for promotion of Colonel Benjamin (Mike) Cason to Brigadier General this week.
Telephone Town Hall Scheduled for June 14
I am extremely grateful for all of the great feedback I receive on the issues facing our community. The people of the 36th District are always my best resource. I encourage local residents to continue to share their thoughts and perspectives with me by participating in my next tele-town hall event on June 14 beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Participants can register for the tele-town hall by visiting www.senatoraument.com/tele-town-hall. This link can also be used for audio streaming, which will be available immediately prior to the event. I look forward to hearing from you!
Senate Box 203036