School Pensions, Alcohol Privatization Among Issues Facing Pa. Lawmakers at Budget Deadline

Proposals to move Pennsylvania's newly hired public school employees and state workers into a 401(k)-style retirement plan and to privatize liquor sales faced state lawmakers Monday, less than two days before the annual budget deadline.

Other items on the Legislature's agenda include a change to the rules about how prosecutors are prosecuted and a package of bills that constitutes the state budget.

The pension bill is scheduled for House debate after a state commission issues an actuarial report. The proposal has been amended since it passed the Senate so that it would now exempt state troopers and prison guards, and would not require current employees to contribute more to maintain benefits they were granted under a 2001 law.

Republican majorities in the General Assembly are pushing for a budget that closes a yawning deficit without new taxes and puts a bit more money into public education.

Their nearly $30.2 billion spending plan represents a year-over-year increase of about 4 percent, driven largely by higher pension obligations, the cost of health care for the poor and about $100 million in new funding for public schools.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is warning he will veto the budget if it gets to his desk in its current form. He has not said whether he will reject it completely or exercise the governor's line-item veto authority.

Wolf wants a tax on natural gas drilling to fund public education and a shift away from property taxes that fund schools.

The state's new budget year begins at midnight Tuesday. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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