HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – There are 253 seats in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly. The vast majority of the people who occupy them accept the pension that comes with the job.
Pensions are a legal part of the legislative compensation package. For the longest tenured legislators, those pensions are a pretty sweet deal upon retirement.
But according to paperwork from the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, seven state senators have chosen not to participate in the pension system. Four – John DiSanto (Dauphin/Perry), Scott Wagner (York), Scott Martin (Lancaster), Mike Folmer (Lebanon) – are from the Midstate.
In the state House, 25 representatives, nine – Stephen Bloom (Cumberland), Russ Diamond (Lebanon), Kristin Hill (York), Carol Hill-Evans (York), Kate Klunk (York), John Lawrence (Chester/Lancaster), Greg Rothman (Cumberland), Frank Ryan (Lebanon), Paul Schemel (Franklin) – are from this area and have said thanks, but no thanks.
“I think we have a responsibility as legislators to be the ones who set the example,” said Rothman, a Republican.
He sees pensions as crisis number one in Harrisburg and says it’s harder to fix it if you’re in it.
“I didn’t think I could be part of the solution while I was part of the problem,” said Rothman, who also took photos of himself signing the paperwork not to accept a pension in case there was a dispute after the fact.
Rothman and several of the pension rejecters are wealthy and successful businessmen. It has been argued that without offering a nice pension, only the rich would run and average Pennsylvanians wouldn’t bother..
“That’s not really a valid argument,” said Leo Knepper of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania. Knepper’s group recruits, endorses and funds legislative candidates who pledge not to take a pension if elected.
“They’re making $85,000 a year, which is twice Pennsylvania’s median income, and they can still put some money away for retirement. “It’s not an impossible task,” Knepper said.
And not all of the lawmakers who’ve passed on the pension are rich.
“I think as lawmakers we need to think very carefully about taking the pension,” said Hill-Evans, a Democrat. She retired after nearly three decades at York’s Caterpillar plant. She earned a private sector pension and decided, even though she’s eligible, not to double up with a state pension.
“Why contribute to a problem that’s already hurting so many of our taxpayers?” Hill-Evans asked. “They’re the ones paying for us to get pensions.”
Seven out of 50 in the Senate, 25 out of 203 in the House not taking that defined benefit for themselves will benefit everyone else, according to CAP.
“Hats off to anybody who wants to do it,” Knepper said. “It’s the right thing to do for Pennsylvania taxpayers.”