The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


February 6, 2013

My Turn: Its time for the state to pay its bills

As one of thousands of current and retired commonwealth employees and Central Susquehanna Valley citizens, who now or in the future will rely on our earned and promised state retirements, I read with interest John Finnerty's column, "Budgets 44B barrier" in the Jan. 28 edition.

As a 28-year commonwealth employee, I have contributed more than six percent of my gross pay each and every payday toward funding my retirement. In addition, when I signed on with the state back in 1984, I essentially signed a contract that I would work for lower wages than I could garner in the private section, with a four-year degree, with the promise the commonwealth would then provide me certain benefits, including a guaranteed retirement based upon my contributions and my years of state service.

Over the years I have been able to earn advancement and also earn pay raises, and have been able to garner a living wage so I could provide for my wife and children.

However, in recent years, our legislators in Harrisburg have taken steps which now threaten the retirement income of myself and the other thousands of current and retired commonwealth employees. The legislature has failed to fund their end of the bargain. They have instead essentially balanced our state budgets on the backs of state employees instead of placing into the system the monies needed to keep the retirement system at a healthy ratio.

Now that there is an estimated $44 billion of bills due, instead of paying those bills, some legislators wish to change the rules of the system and not keep the promises made to commonwealth employees. It is interesting that there has been no information about the legislators cutting their own retirements.

Indeed, I have not had a pay raise for the past five years, however, by law, our legislators have benefited from a guaranteed pay raise each year. Each year, according to a recent PA House of Representatives Appropriations budget briefing, $65-plus million is funneled back into our local economy by disbursements to retired Pennsylvania state employees.

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