Schweyer issues statement on pension vote

HARRISBURG, June 8 –The following statement is from state Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, regarding the passage of S.B. 1:

"After much debate, deliberation and study, I joined a bipartisan group of legislators in supporting Senate Bill 1 which would make significant changes to the retirement plans for future state workers and public school employees.

“Senate Bill 1 would have no adverse impact on retirees or current state or public education employees. No one who has earned his or her pension or has begun to prepare for retirement by investing in the state pension system would see any change in benefit.

“This bill would mandate that we continue to pay down our approximately $70 billion liability as prescribed by previous law under Act 120. This unfunded liability exists not because of the employees, but because of poor decisions taken by state policymakers. This bill includes provisions that can help reduce the likelihood that future legislatures will make decisions that harm our pension fund. 

“Importantly, by providing three retirement options for future employees, Senate Bill 1 still would ensure sound and generous post-retirement financial security for those yet-to-be hired teachers, park rangers, public nurses and PennDOT workers. They would be able to choose from one of two side-by-side hybrid pension systems or a traditional 401k retirement plan. 

“Finally, Senate Bill 1 would reduce risk to taxpayers if (and when) the market has a downturn. Pension funds are invested in the stock market and rely on positive returns to keep those funds solvent. When the market doesn't perform, the taxpayers (through the state budget) often have to make up the difference. This bill would shift a portion of that risk to the retirees and employees who will have to bear some of that burden. 

“I would have preferred a pension reform plan that would have included additional revenue to pay down our unfunded pension debt at a faster rate. I would have preferred a stacked hybrid system similar to the federal government's pension plans to the side-by-side plan included in Senate Bill 1. However in my estimation, Senate Bill 1 is the best deal possible at this time. 

“Now that this issue has been resolved for the immediate future, I will continue my efforts to support an honest, balanced budget that invests in public education, social services for those most at risk and job creation opportunities for all Pennsylvanians."