Area’s lawmakers side with Corbett

State Representative Kathy Rapp and State Senator Scott Hutchinson agree with almost everything Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday regarding pension reform in Pennsylvania.

“His real concern that came across to me is our failure to deal with pension reform. I am for pension reform, as we have a $50 billion deficit,” Rapp said. “The bill that was before us was only for new employees, and the PSEA (Pa. State Education Association) was against it, along with all the other public unions.”

“We are trying to save pensions. I’ve had individual correction, education (union members) and others come to me in support of the legislation. They recognize the danger. We’re (the employees) not contributing a fair share to pensions, like the private sector is. I’ve received email from constituents who are tired of footing the bill for public employees,” she said.

She said that even though they didn’t get the legislation through, “It’s the nature of the job. If it doesn’t work out, go back and fix it. That’s the way our government works.”

Rapp and Hutchinson both were wary of the governor’s line item veto that will cut into the legislature’s operating reserve, although they both thought the reserve fund was already too big.

They took issue with the ability of the executive branch to affect the legislative branch, therefore affecting the balance of power.

Hutchinson said, “We have to be wary of one branch being able to shut down another.”

He said that Corbett was using the line-item veto to draw attention to those who are opposed to any legislative changes to public union pensions. “A lot of legislators know it’s important, but some are willing to ignore it,” he noted.

Rapp said the reserve was needed to pay staff salaries in the event the budget wasn’t passed.

“It’s not the first time. One year under Ed Rendell the budget didn’t get passed until October. I don’t think it’s fair to ask people to put time in without being recompensed,” she said. “Do we need that much? I don’t think so, and many members agree.”

Hutchinson said, “I am arm-in-arm with the governor. We must address the pension situation sooner or later. We’ve got to at least stop the bleeding.”

Rapp added that there are school districts in the Philadelphia are where union members are not contributing anything to healthcare costs.