Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"No" To HB-1828

Politics is something I stay away from, I normally don't discuss the issues with anyone and will not argue politics with any one. I believe everyone has a right to vote for who they want regardless of their sex, race or stance on the issues. With that being said I always thought the politicians were to be working for the regular working class American and to have there best interest in mind. Unfortunately I learned a long time ago that this is not the case and that they are for what is good for them and pads their pocket. I have become more and more disappointed with our elected officials to the point I consider them all to be crooked scum bags and as I have for the last few elections refuse to vote for anyone already in office. Wow! for someone that started this post the way I did I kind of got carried away there.

Yesterday I spent the morning at the Capitol along with other firefighter, police officers and ASCME employees from across the state trying to save our pensions. It seems that bill HB-1828 that started out as a way to raise the sales tax 1% in Philadelphia to help a struggling city had something else slipped into it and passed the Senate in less than 72 hours with very little discussion. The following was taken from IAFF Local 1400's site and gives you a little background on the bill:

On Wednesday, August 26 -- after less than 2 hours of consideration -- the Pennsylvania Senate passed an amendment to House Bill 1828. This Senate legislation, if approved by the House and signed by the Governor, will hurt municipalities, their employees and taxpayers across the Commonwealth – all under the guise of "pension reform."

Here is what the so-called reforms really mean:

A State Takeover of Many Pension Plans That Will Hurt – Not Save -- Municipalities, Employees and Taxpayers.

Section 13 of the Bill, starting at page 54, calls for the automatic and permanent transfer of municipal pension plan systems that are under 50% funded to the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System ("PMRS"). PMRS will have total control over these plans – and can send an extra bill each year to the municipality (and thus its taxpayers) if there is a funding shortfall, even if such a shortfall is caused by PMRS’ mis-management (see page 55).

PMRS also will set up new, significantly lower benefit plans for new hires. These plans will include lower defined benefit plans with huge offsets for things like Social Security benefits, and/or defined contribution plans that place an employee’s retirement security in the hands of the ever-so-reliable stock and bond markets (see pages 55-61).

An End to Collective Bargaining Over Pensions.

There is a widespread mis-conception that pension under-funding is the result of benefit improvements won in collective bargaining. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Most municipal employees receive pension benefits based on formulas set by the General Assembly -- such as in Act 600 for police, and in the Third Class City Code for uniformed and non-uniformed employees alike. And people also forget that all public employees contribute a substantial amount of their own pay to fund their pensions.

Public employees, then, are not to blame for pension under-funding. Rather, it is certain municipalities that for many years did not contribute adequately to their plans, and 2 stock market crashes since 2000, that have brought us the current crisis.

Collective bargaining on pensions has helped municipalities and their employee representatives develop local solutions and fair contracts within the applicable statutory structures. But if there is a PMRS takeover, there will be absolutely no
collective bargaining over pensions now or in the future, even if a plan’s funding situation improves (see pages 54, 55-56). Similarly, plans that are less than 70% funded can never be improved until they reach 90% funding (see page 39). And the Senate bill requires the City of Philadelphia to freeze pension benefits for current employees and impose a third tier of lower benefits on new hires, or it loses the right to increase its sales tax and defer pension contributions to meet its budget preferences (see pages 73, 76, 82).

This is simply not pension reform – it is rewriting labor law to hurt employees and their chosen representatives. New police officers will not face 80% of the bullets of their more senior brothers and sisters. New fire fighters will not face a lower percentage risk of a roof falling in on them when attacking a fire. New municipal employees will not face a fraction of the case-load, or sanitation and water calls. If anything, we will ask them to do even more. Yet under this bill, their contribution to the same critical work that makes the Commonwealth run suddenly and forever is worth less.

Rejection of the Right Solution – Increase Funding for Pensions That Will Not Hurt Municipalities, Employees and Taxpayers. Each year, modest taxes on the premiums of fire and casualty insurance policies written by out-of-state insurance companies seeking to take advantage of our state’s insurance laws generate tens of millions of dollars in state aid for municipal pensions. It is real money that helps municipalities meet their pension obligations. Yet at no time during HB 1828’s rush through the Senate was there any discussion about increasing this tax to help municipalities fund their plans.

Are foreign fire and casualty insurers more valuable than our own municipalities, their employees and Pennsylvania taxpayers?

HB 1828, as amended by the Senate, is not pension reform to save Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and other municipalities across the Commonwealth.

It is instead a power-grab by PMRS, with the downside exposure borne just by the affected municipalities and their taxpayers.

It is instead the effective elimination of 40 years of collective bargaining rights for public employees.

It is instead an outrageous effort to "solve" pension under-funding that public employees did not cause, but that they single-handedly will pay for in frozen or slashed benefits.

And it is also so very unnecessary to put municipalities, their employees and taxpayers at risk when the Commonwealth instead could update a tax on out-of-state companies writing insurance here.

HB 1828, as amended by the Senate, must not pass.

My retirement system in Harrisburg is very strong with no thanks to the city who regularly puts no money into it. It is strong because of the contributions that come off of my pay check and other fellow firefighters paychecks every pay period. In effect what the want to do is rob me of my money to give to other people, prohibit me from negotiating a better retirement and at some point in my retired life say "oh and by the way we screwed up your money also and now you will get less for retirement". All this when most of us as firefighter will never have social security to help us out because we have never been allowed to pay into it. Why don't they just take my cane when I am old and beat me to death with it while they are at.

I failed to mention that they were to be in session during our rally and vote on the bill but for some reason they postponed the session. I guess they did not have the nerve to look the Innocent in the eyes and say we are stealing your money.

This bill must not pass the Senate, please contact your representative and urge them to vote NO on bill HB-1828.


Sparky said...

Ten more years. i will take what I get from the state and my Af retirement and head to the islands. Surf pole in hand and Jimmy Buffett on the ipod. Hurricane season head to Alaska.

Ken Conger Photography said...

Sad. Hope things work out for you folks.

Coy said...

We are getting it shoved up every day as politicians pad their "campaign fund" and Fortune 500 CEO’s are taking compensation averaging 400 times that of one of their average employees. Its past time to remind politicians who vote in the elections!