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Corbett Touts Tobash's Pension Reform Plan in Shaler Township

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA

Less than a week after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett ended the budget standoff with the state Legislature, he’s setting a new deadline for pension reform: election season.

Corbett was in Shaler Township Monday afternoon pushing an overhaul of the public pension system, which he said is necessary to help struggling school districts and stem the wave of rising property taxes.

“Here in the Shaler Area School District, pension costs have increased by more than $2.9 million or 260 percent over the past 10 years,” Corbett said. “The district is also collecting 12 percent more now in real estate taxes than they did 10 years ago.”

The governor asked citizens to call their representatives and senators and urge them to vote for a plan from Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuykill), which utilizes ahybrid 401(k) style system that would be phased in as new employees enter the state system.

Corbett said the plan is not a “silver bullet” and that change won’t happen right away, but that “in the art of politics and compromise, you have to go with the one that can get the most votes.”

However, with no Democratic support, that plan is still several Republican votes short of passage in either the House or the Senate.

“Unfortunately … because the Republicans don’t have enough (votes), we haven’t been able to enact a meaningful plan that would benefit every homeowner, every taxpayer, every school district, and every job creator in the commonwealth,” Corbett said.

Alongside Corbett were local school district representatives and homeowners, including Dave and Maureen Snyder of Ross Township, who said they struggle to keep up with rising property taxes.

“I also need to plan for my retirement,” Dave Snyder said. “I’m 62 years old. I’ve got just a few years left to plan, and I can’t afford to keep paying more and more taxes.”

John Hoover, superintendent of Hampton Township School District, also spoke in favor of pension reform. He said his district will spend $2.5 million to cover their Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) obligation next year.

“We raised taxes last year, we raised them again this year, and in all likelihood we’ll have to raise them next year,” Hoover said. “This system just is not sustainable.”

Marty Marks, spokesperson for AFL-CIO, which includes the American Federation of Teachers, said that lack of sustainability is not reflective of a problem with the pension system.

“You can see why the pressure is being put on local school districts to raise property taxes, and it’s not because of their pension obligation problems,” Marks said. “It’s because their revenue has been decimated and the governor is not doing anything about it.”

Marks said Corbett has plenty of options for boosting revenue that could help Pennsylvania school districts.

“He’s made over $3 billion in corporate tax cuts,” Marks said. “He refuses to support a tax on Marcellus Shale. He’s against expanding Medicaid, which produces nearly $40 million in new revenue. He doesn’t favor a tax on smokeless tobacco and cigars, and he doesn’t want to close the Delaware corporate loophole.”