The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 14, 2014

Corbett takes battle over pension bill to public

GLENSHAW — Gov. Tom Corbett is plunging into a public fight for legislation to curb rising public employee pension costs, using both the resources of his campaign and his official office to broadcast his warning of rising school property taxes and further pressure on classroom funding.

The effort comes amid a feud between Corbett and his fellow Republicans who control the Pennsylvania Legislature just four months before the Nov. 4 election decides Corbett’s bid for second term and 228 of 253 legislative seats.

Over the weekend, Corbett’s re-election campaign issued robocalls, with some Republican lawmakers reporting that calls went to residents in their districts.

Corbett’s calls pounded lawmakers, just four days after he used his power of a line-item veto to strike $65 million from the Legislature’s own appropriations and $7.2 million more in earmarks and other spending items picked by lawmakers in the state’s $29 billion budget that he signed.

His message said cutting “those excesses, though, have made some legislators angry ... They may get angrier. I’m asking them to come back and deal with pension reform to avoid massive property tax increases and trouble for future education funding.”

At an official stop Monday near his home in suburban Pittsburgh, Corbett was less combative toward lawmakers, but no less insistent that rising pension costs are an issue of utmost im­portance to property taxpayers.

He said he needed three more senators and eight more House members to pass a bill that is projected to save more than $10 billion over 30 years by combining a limited pension with a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan to provide a smaller benefit than current state government and public school employees receive.

“We need homeowners to pick up the phone” and call their representatives, Corbett told about two dozen people at the Shaler Township Municipal Building.

Democrats oppose the Corbett-backed bill because its only savings arise from cuts in benefits, and they accuse Corbett’s school funding policies of precipitating rising property taxes.

Some Republicans question the value of the bill because it would not relieve any immediate pressure on school district budgets.

The state’s projected debt in its two major pension funds is $50 billion.


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