After a 2 and a half month summer recess, Pennsylvania House members returned to Harrisburg today and Democrats are warning the Senate not to make too many changes to a pension reform bill, if lawmakers want the measure to become law this year.
In June, the House passed a measure reducing pension benefits for future state employees and public school teachers.
The bill would also increase the retirement age and the vesting period – but it would keep the defined benefit system in place.
Lehigh County Senator Pat Browne says a growing number of Senate Republicans want to amend the measure, and substitute in a 401-k-style defined contribution system, instead.
"Just changing the current benefit package, and not going down a different route, given our history, is not the way to solve the problem. It’s not the defined benefit costs associated with the changes that were made eight years ago that’s the problem. That’s only a small piece of the problem. The problem is managing a defined benefit plan."
But House Democratic spokesman Brett Marcy counters any major amendments will kill the bill’s chance of passing this year.
"The bottom line is, the language that we passed out of the House was drafted in such a way that it had the buy-in from various stakeholders from all different parts of this issue. And to substantially change it means going back to square one. We’re at the end of the legislative session here. We don’t have a lot of time."
He argues members of both parties crafted the House legislation, which passed by a near-unanimous margin. State pension costs are expected to spike by billions of dollars in the coming years.