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Pension costs dominate education conversation in Harrisburg, amid other competing priorities

State capitol at night.
Lindsay Lazarski (WHYY/NewsWorks)

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Much of the debate in Harrisburg this summer has been centered on how Pennsylvania should overcome its $2.2 billion deficit.

But, as usual, there has also been a great deal of focus on issues related to public school funding and policy.

The summer began with fanfare in the Capitol rotunda. On June 12, a compromise on a long debated effort to overhaul the retirement system for teachers and state workers was made official.

Gov. Wolf and the legislature agreed on a plan affecting new hires only that eliminates what workers currently get: a full, guaranteed pension payout upon retirement. Instead, those hired after July 1, 2019, will have the choice of a few options that will give them a split between a pension and a 401(k).

"Simply put, this bill is a win for Pennsylvania taxpayers; it’s also fair to Pennsylvania’s workforce, and I will be proud to sign it," Wolf said, standing before a large crowd of lawmakers.

The measure goes a long way to protect taxpayers decades into the future, who will now avoid carrying the full risk of the stock market. In a downturn, new hires will shoulder a chunk of those losses instead of leaving state government and school districts fully on the hook.

Read the rest of this story at Newsworks

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