is a monthly publication of the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee. The committee is chaired by Representative Daryl Metcalfe.
During the 2009-2010 Legislative Session, the General Assembly passed House Bill 2497 (Act 120 of 2010), which made several reforms to the Commonwealth’s public pension systems. These reforms are expected to provide some fiscal relief to the public pension systems and taxpayers over the next several decades. However, the Commonwealth’s public pension systems contin¬ue to experience an unfunded liability of over 42 billion dollars. The reforms of Act 120 are not enough to restore solvency to the public pension systems. The General Assembly needs to act now to further protect taxpayers from this ballooning and potentially devastating debt.
Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act of 1978 lists crimes that can cause a public official or public employ¬ee to lose his or her retirement benefit. Under this law, the crime must be related to the official’s public office or the employee’s public employment. However, this re¬quirement provides a loophole because a public official or public employee could continue to receive a taxpay¬er-funded retirement benefit after committing a violent crime, such as murder or rape.
Pennsylvania’s Procurement Code is the statute that outlines the process whereby state agencies purchase goods and services. Recently, the House State Government Committee passed legislation that will provide greater
transparency and accountability to the procurement process.
When a customer is deciding whether to purchase a product or a service, the two major factors influencing this decision are quality and value. If a product or service is priced too high or does not meet customer expectations, the customer has the freedom to choose a different provider that is able to meet the customer’s needs at an acceptable price. This is common sense.
Representative Daryl Metcalfe has been selected to continue as the Majority Chair¬man for the House State Government Committee. This will be his second consecutive term as Majority Chair, and the Chairman has indicated that he will waste no time confronting the major issues facing Pennsylvania taxpayers in the 2013-2014 legisla¬tive session.
On October 17, 2012, the House of Representatives held its last voting session day of the 2011-12 legislative session. To date, legislators in the General Assembly introduced approximately 4,348 bills. The House State Government Committee received 394 of those bills. The committee reported out 43 bills and three resolutions through 30 voting meetings. Additionally, the committee held 11 informational meetings and 18 public hearings.
The Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act of 1978 was passed by the General Assembly to ensure that public officials and public employees do not continue to collect their taxpayer-funded retirement benefit if the official or employee abuses their public office by committing a crime related to their public office or employment. Currently, crimes such as criminal homicide, aggravated assault and possessing child pornography are not included in the grounds for forfeiture of retirement benefits.
The estimated combined unfunded liability of the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) is $40 billion. The current liabilities incurred by SERS and PSERS have reached an unsustainable level. The Commonwealth’s pension liabilities can no longer be sustained by the taxpayers. The General Assembly must address the public pension crisis.
This year has been an active year for the House State Government Committee. From January 2012 to July 2012, the committee held a total of 15 meetings and successfully voted 11 bills and three House Resolutions out of committee on a wide range of issues including: states’ rights, reducing the size of the legislature and constitutional amendments. Additionally, four bills reported from the committee were signed into law this year.
As many states struggle to balance budgets during these tough economic times, the proper management of taxpayer dollars has become more important than ever. State budgets should be managed like the private sector, focusing on core responsibilities while maximizing available funds. Taxpayers can no longer be treated as an endless source of revenue for the Commonwealth.
In 2010, Congress passed and the President signed into law Obamacare, a 2,400+ page piece of legislation that requires individuals not covered by employer- or government-sponsored insurance plans to obtain health insurance coverage or pay a penalty starting January 1, 2014.
Facing the stark reality of a combined unfunded public pension liability of $39.5 billion, the House State Government Committee convened a hearing on several different proposals to begin to address Pennsylvania’s multi-billion dollar public pension funding crisis.
In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville was commissioned by the French government to study the American political system. One of his most prophetic observations of our constitutional republic was, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.” In 2012, there is no shortage of elected officials seeking recognition for the awarding of a taxpayer-funded grant or the creation of a new government program. While elected officials may have had some influence in the creation of the program or the awarding of the grant, it is not the elected officials themselves who make these grants and programs possible; it is the taxpayer.
As Pennsylvania experiences another fiscal year where General Fund revenues have fallen short of Department of Revenue estimates, the Legislature is confronted with two options: decrease spending or increase taxes. “In these current economic times, we cannot expect taxpayers to continue to bear the burden of the tax-and-spend policies of previous administrations,” said Chairman Metcalfe. “The paychecks of hardworking taxpayers have been gradually eroded by all levels of government and it must stop.”
As one of its first orders of business for the New Year, the House State Government Committee approved House Bill 153 on January 24. House Bill 153, sponsored by Speaker of the House Sam Smith, would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to reduce the number of legislators in the House of Representatives from 203 members to 153 members.