Gov. Tom Corbett, during his visit to Erie on Tuesday, framed his push for public-sector pension reform in a way that might make property owners take notice.
Corbett said a proposal for “hybrid” reform, for new state and public school employees, isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue. “It’s a property-owner bill,” he told business leaders at the Manufacturer & Business Association.
Corbett said property owners are being forced to pay for rising pension costs through higher taxes.
The governor backs a plan that, for those newly hired, would combine a defined benefit program with a 401(k) plan in which the employees could control their investment decisions.
The unions are opposed to the plan, saying it would offer no immediate savings and only limited savings in the future. The unions argue that the state should impose a Marcellus Shale drilling severance tax or roll back corporate tax cuts for meaningful pension relief.
Corbett will have a tough time getting pension reform through the Legislature before the Nov. 4 election, even though the governor is a Republican and both the House and Senate are GOP-controlled.
Corbett also faces a tough re-election task, with Democrat Tom Wolf continuing to lead in the polls. Wolf will visit Erie on Aug. 11.
– John Guerriero