Pennsylvania lawmakers try anew to overhaul public pensions


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Republican lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Legislature launched a new push Tuesday night to overhaul benefits in Pennsylvania’s two large public pension systems as the state grapples with tens of billions of dollars in pension debt.

A conference committee of six lawmakers approved the bill in a late-night, party-line vote, sending it to up-or-down votes in the Republican-controlled House and Senate, expected Wednesday.

The bill, which would deliver no short-term savings for the state or school districts, is a variation of legislation that Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to pass for several years. It arrived at the end of the legislative session, as lawmakers worked late to pass a flurry of legislation.

It would reduce traditional pension benefits for newly hired state government and public school employees and add plan options that rely on a 401(k)-style benefit.

Supporters say the changes would help shield the state and school districts from spikes in pension obligations in the future, as markets fluctuate. Over 32 years, the bill would lower projected pension obligation payments of more than $200 billion by about $2.6 billion, according to an analysis by the state Independent Fiscal Office.