Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pension Road Trip

The P-G's Rich Lord reports that all nine members of city council, and a rep from the Mayor's office, are going to Harrisburg next week to lobby for statewide pension reform.

Councilmembers Doug Shields and Jim Motznik were the point-men for outlining the strategy to the press. This could be an attempt to prevent pensions from becoming a political football between mayoral candidates, at least for now. The unity on display by this happy caravan is not just for the sake of the state legislature, but the local electorate. Remember Councilmember / Candidate Bill Peduto has already indicated unfunded pension liability as Pittsburgh's greatest looming problem.

It's a pity, though. Ten united Democrats from Democratland, off to ask for some Democrat-style big government intervention. With Harrisburg so evenly and interestingly divided, it would be nice if we could add a cabal of fiscally hawkish Republicans. Shame to have to summon Jim Roddy to play this part again. How about some of those names we've seen dropping? Melissa Joan? Mary Beth? Hons Man? Bueller?


  1. Intersting article. What they say is that they want to "roll" the city's pensions into the statewide system. If we were starting a brand-new city today, that would make a great deal of sense. I get what they are saying about lowering administrative costs and getting better returns when all of the money is pooled in one place.

    But here's the thing. We aren't starting a brand new city. The existing city pensions are grossly underfunded. Why on earth would the state want to have our employees on their books, when they know how huge the shortfall is in our current pension plan?

    Am I wrong here? Tell me if I am wrong! I'd love to be wrong about this one. But it really sounds like they want the state to bail out our pensions, so that we don't have to pay the piper for failing to fund them for such a very long time.

    In essence, they want taxpayers statewide to pick up the tab for the City of Pittsburgh's failure. Why on earth would the state agree to take on that burden for us, when the problem is entirely our own fault?

  2. Right.

    I'm generally against a city-county merger and I live in the city. I'm also part of the county. If the county takes the city, it is like a row-boat holding a 30-ton anchor.

    The mergers should NOT occur until the city gets its own house in order. If those in office can't do that -- then they should NOT be in office.

    And, those that make the mess are generally the least qualified to fix the mess.

  3. The only way I can see it working, Adm., is if we can find enough pols from urban districts with the same problem, AND if we agree to support the pet legislation of others (that is, assuming the Pgh Ten are tag-teaming with the likes of Walko & Ferlo et all).

  4. I'm not a financial wizard, but I am interested in others' thoughts on the fact that most City employees contribute just 4% of their salary to the pension fund, as contrasted with 5% contributions I believe by county personnel? There was also an increase in the number of people drawing from the pension fund when the city furloughed so many employees under Murphy and due to retirements by older fire and police personnel when faced with decreases in their contract privileges. By increasing the current workforce when it's not necessary, (hiring refuse workers to take on the Wilkinsburg burden, bringing Housing Authority police into the City budget, etc.) the Ravenstahl administration is reversing the effect of personnel cuts due to the long-term burden.