Dwight Evans: Why PA doesn't need more pension reform

State Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Phila., takes issue with my Tuesday column for suggesting the fast-rising subsidy for the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System, which is sucking up hundeds of millions more each year from both school district property taxpayers and the cash-strapped state budget, might spark further changes in how future teachers and other school workers help fund, qualify for, and will be paid in retirement.

Evans points out the steep increase ($400 million next year, hundreds of millions more projected in future years) is still less than would have been without HB-2497, the reform act Evans helped pilot through the General Assembly to be signed by Gov. Rendell this fall.

He notes the difficulty, under past Pennsylvania case law, of cutting back public employee benefits. And, Evans told me, he expects the stock and bond markets will recover, pushing investment values higher and reducing the actual need for greater subsidies: "The markets have always come back in the past."

Evans also doubts the Republicans who ousted him and other Democratic leaders from control of the state House, or GOP Gov.-elect Tom Corbett, will go any further to trimming pensions for politically powerful state workers and retirees than the combined parties already have: "This is not New Jersey," where Gov. Chris Christie is pushing further state pension cuts.

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