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Taking Action on Municipal Pension Reform
June 2015

Hello.  And welcome to At the Center.

Four years ago, The Lancaster Chamber joined with Lancaster’s Mayor Gray and a host of other chambers and mayors across the state to make the case for municipal pension reform.  This unique partnership of government and business championed the fact that, while the legislature was wrestling with the issues surrounding state and school district pensions, reform was equally necessary at the municipal level and, unfortunately, the reform required state government action to allow for any adjustments.

Shy of state government action, a growing number of state municipalities and particularly our cities, find themselves faced with the same pension funding challenges that our state and school districts face, leading to an increase in tax dollars that doesn’t address essential services but rather simply funds pension liabilities.  At the municipal level it means more taxes, less services, less police officers, less firefighters and, frankly, less hope for the future.  All issues that have a significant impact on the business climate….and hardly the foundation for a positive economic future.

Our call to our state government officials when we started and our call to them now is, as you tackle the challenges of state and school district pensions –and make no mistake about it, we believe they must tackle the challenge of state and school district pensions--, don’t ignore the similar challenges at the local level.

This year, I am happy to report, there is some reason for optimism….cautious optimism….as the issue appears to be gaining attention in the state House, the state Senate and in the Governor’s office.

Recently, a municipal pension reform bill authored by Lancaster County Rep. Keith Greiner was reported out of committee, representing a major step forward in our reform efforts.  Our thanks go to Reps. Cutler, Mentzer and Zimmerman for co-sponsoring the bill. Further, it is anticipated that the Senate will also be taking action on another municipal reform bill this week, a bill that is co-sponsored by Senators Smucker and Aument and we thank them, as well.

Although the logjam on action appears to be broken, it is unfortunate that the support continues to be divided along party lines.  Despite the fact that most Democratic mayors across the state are calling for reform, the Democrats in Harrisburg continue to oppose the pending reform measures, putting final passage and gubernatorial support in much doubt.

So, where does that leave us?  My ask of you is that as the state budget discussions ramp up and the pension issue gets tossed about as a bargaining tool, please do your part to make it clear that municipal pension reform is every bit as important and every bit a business issue as state and school district pension reform.  Check out our website for the contact information of your state legislator and get involved, or just contact The Chamber for more information on how you can help create a better business climate for all of Pennsylvania’s municipalities.

Until next time, stay informed, stay engaged and stay with us…At the Center.

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