HARRISBURG – Senator Guy Reschenthaler (R-37) today voted for a historic pension reform bill that will transform public employee retirement benefits for the 21st Century and limit future financial risks for taxpayers.
Senate Bill 1, which passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 40 to 9, is projected to save more than $5 billion and shield taxpayers from $20 billion or more in additional liabilities if state investments fail to meet projections. In addition, the bill creates a new Pension Management and Asset Investment Review Commission to study ways to reduce investment costs with the goal of saving an additional $3 billion.
Pension benefits already earned by current employees and retirees would not be affected.
“I was proud to support this historic pension reform bill that passed the Senate today. Reforming the broken public pension system has been my number one priority since being sworn in to the Senate,” Reschenthaler said. “The broken public pension system has been the leading cause of rising school property taxes and it has kept billions of new education dollars from reaching classrooms.”
Reschenthaler said the legislation would offer all new public-sector employees one of three different retirement planning options – a defined contribution plan similar to the 401(k) system offered by most employers in the private sector, or one of two hybrid plans that combine a 401 (k)-style system with the defined benefit system that state employees and school employees already enjoy.
The new system would only apply to new hires, but current employees could voluntarily opt into the new system if they so choose upon the plans’ start dates.
The new options would provide greater flexibility for employees who do not spend their entire career in public service while still providing good retirement security for career workers. Most employees who leave service with 20 years or less of service time would see a better benefit under the new system than they would have earned under the current system due to the portability of the 401(k)-style plan.
The legislation also includes a shared risk and shared gain provision further protecting taxpayers. If investment returns fail to meet projections over a long enough period of time, employees in the defined contribution system could pay slightly higher contribution rates. However, if investments perform better than projects, employees would pay a lower rate for their benefits.
“This pension reform plan is regarded by independent watchdogs as one of the most significant reforms of a public pension system in the nation,” Reschenthaler said. “It will protect taxpayers from as much as $20 billion in future liabilities all while ensuring the viability of the system’s current and future retirees.”
Senate Bill 1 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.