Friday, July 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Pension Tension

With state pension problems piling up, a Pittsburgh newspaper looks at growing costs of generous state pensions.

Pension Tension

If you're on a pension or wish you were, or if you put a chunk of every paycheck into a retirement plan, you probably shouldn't read this.

It could cause you a little tension.

It is just another example of how your isolated, greedy state legislature takes care of itself at the risk and ruination of others.

And it's a classic example of bad decisions coming home to roost.

Back in 2001, then-Gov. Ridge and lawmakers worked out a state pension boost givng legislators a 50 percent hike in benefits and other state and school retirees a 25 percent hike.

Guess who pays? Yep. Taxpayers are on the hook this year for more than $1 billion, an annual amount projected to grow to $4 billion by 2016 as more and more state employees and teachers retire.

Your current governor and legislature say this expense cannot be sustained, so they plan someday, some way to do something about it.

We all should live so long.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports the number of state and school retirees pulling $100,000-plus per year pension payments doubled in the last five years to 658 lucky oldsters.

And some of our former public servants get more than $300,000 per year.

(I said you probably shouldn't read this.)

Top takers include 55 former judges and court employees, 8 former lawmakers, 103 former Penn State professors and administrators and 300-plus former public school administrators.

The paper lists some top dogs.

Stephen J. Benkovic, retired PSU chem prof: $443,879 per year.

Irene Mitchell, retired East Stroudsburg University arts prof: $332,699 per year.

Gary C. Schultz, retired PSU veep awating trial related to Sandusky case: $330,699

(And not long ago, I offered the example of former Philly state Rep. Frank Oliver: $286,118.)

So, you know, next time around you might want to consider public service as a career choice.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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