In a quote in the Sunday, 10 February Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, State Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills) offers a mea culpa which we do not often hear from elected officials. It is made in response to the state pension fund shortfall that has metastasized since benefit sweeteners were retroactively enacted in 2001, a time that the funds enjoyed a surplus.
Costa reportedly said, "It's our (General Assembly members) fault."
He is right, but it is also the fault of governors that preceded Tom Corbett. Edward Rendell slept through the crisis for eight years, never even raising the issue. Tom Ridge, purported conservative, conspired with the General Assembly to enact it, demonstrating the danger inherent in the credo of, "If you give them the money, they will spend it." Heck, they even spend it when we do not give them the money!
The pension fund calamity began with the 2001 attack on our nation, the ensuing collapse of the stock market, and then, the failure of the Commonwealth to properly fund the plans, this as employees consistently contributed between 6.25 and 7.5 of their gross salary as their portion.
Reasonable people recognize that drastic action must now be taken in order to ensure not only the solvency of the funds, but the ability of the Commonwealth to perform its basic obligations.
I recall no clamor by state workers in advance of 2001 that pensions that were the envy of most be made even better, yet our state "leaders" enacted such a plan, no doubt so that they could receive a 50% boost in their retirement benefit while bringing along rank and file workers and public school teachers for a 25% hike, thereby diverting any flak that would be directed at the members.
The fund deficit of at least $41 billion demonstrates the utter incompetence of those that would purport to lead (the pension enhancement of 2001 was passed overwhelmingly, by votes 176-23 in the House, 41-8 in the Senate) , the proclivity to create a problem that is handed of "the next guy (or gal)". Government is one of the pursuits in which an individual can create a mess that will cost the taxpayers a fortune, yet evade all responsibility for their actions. Isn't that right, Governor Rendell?