Corbett pressures lawmakers for pension-system overhaul

In this Tuesday, May 20, 2014 photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett talks to reporters outside his polling place at the Shaler Villa Volunteer Fire Company after voting in the Pennsylvania primary election in the Pittsburgh suburb of Shaler Towhnship, Pa. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is preparing to release a report with new details on how police and prosecutors handled the Jerry Sandusky child molestation investigation. The report has political implications because the state prosecutors office got involved in early 2009, when the current governor, Corbett, was attorney general. Corbett is running for re-election this year. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
In this Tuesday, May 20, 2014 photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett talks to reporters outside his polling place at the Shaler Villa Volunteer Fire Company after voting in the Pennsylvania primary election in the Pittsburgh suburb of Shaler Towhnship, Pa. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is preparing to release a report with new details on how police and prosecutors handled the Jerry Sandusky child molestation investigation. The report has political implications because the state prosecutors office got involved in early 2009, when the current governor, Corbett, was attorney general. Corbett is running for re-election this year. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Posted: June 28, 2014

HARRISBURG - As lawmakers plodded in budget talks, Gov. Corbett on Thursday called on the legislature to show its hand and vote on a bill to rein in the rapidly rising cost of public employee pensions.

"The people need to know who is willing to work on behalf of the taxpayer," said Corbett, who in an unusual move, walked to the Capitol newsroom to deliver his message directly to reporters.

The governor has said he was willing to let the state's June 30 budget deadline pass if legislators didn't act on his priority initiatives, including changes to the pension system.

But negotiations on that issue - among others - have been bogged down in disagreements, and the likelihood of passing a 2014-15 spending plan by Monday night remained unclear.

Late Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the $29.1 billion spending plan that the House sent over Wednesday.

That proposal - one crafted by House Republicans and derided by Democrats - was hundreds of millions of dollars below the spending goal Corbett outlined earlier this year. It also had little chance of surviving in its current form, because it included no tax increases but depends on, among other things, $380 million projected to come from the sale of the state liquor system - a sale that lacks widespread support.

Negotiations on changes to the plan are expected to intensify in the coming days. Many in the GOP-controlled Senate have signaled that they wanted to tap new sources of revenue - a hike in the cigarette tax and a new gas-extraction tax have been discussed - to help plug a state budget hole of at least $1.4 billion.

But neither chamber has addressed Corbett's demand to change the retirement-system funding.

The governor backs a proposal that would affect only new employees and would combine a traditional defined-benefit pension with a 401(k)-style plan to provide a smaller benefit than current employees receive. It is expected to save the state more than $10 billion over 30 years.

For his part, Corbett has said that if the legislature did not move on a pension bill, he would not even consider any new taxes.

Said the governor: "I can't see today a budget coming to me real fast."

He and lawmakers weren't the only ones wrangling over the budget. A small group of activists seeking more money for Pennsylvania's public schools staged a sit-in outside Corbett's office. An organizer said similar demonstrations were planned in and around the state Capitol in the days ahead.


INSIDE

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acouloumbis@phillynews.com

717-787-5934

@AngelasInk

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