Chambers, business groups and municipalities call on legislators to take action and make vital reforms for municipal fiscal stability.
The Coalition for Sustainable Communities (CSC), a growing alliance of more than thirty organizations, including chambers of commerce, business groups and municipal associations, urges Pennsylvania policymakers to include municipal pension reform in the deliberations that are expected to be considered before the House and Senate following the Governor's recent budget proposals.
The CSC is advancing two sets of reforms, to Act 111 (municipal binding arbitration) and municipal pensions.
"Even the best fiscally managed municipalities will be forced to reduce services and raise taxes unless state policymakers take action," said Jack Garner, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Municipal League, a founding member of the Coalition. "Our common-sense reforms make the process more fair for municipalities, less costly to taxpayers and ensure arbitration rights and family sustaining jobs are retained for future generations of police and firefighters."
"Our statewide and bipartisan coalition commends the Governor and legislature for taking the first steps toward state public pension reform. But, as they grapple with these difficult decisions, we believe it makes sense to include municipal stakeholders as well. Over the past three years, the CSC has developed concrete reform proposals that offer municipalities the tools they need to put their pensions on a healthy footing and ensure that future jobs for paid fire and police are protected and not under threat," said Ellen Horan, President and CEO of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce, a founding member of the Coalition.
Chad Amond, President of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce, a member of the CSC, said, "We joined the CSC because we believe in partnering with our cities, townships and boroughs to ensure a bright future. However, it is up to the state to grant our municipal leaders the tools they need to succeed, and unfortunately, communities such as Jeannette (which has recently been in the news) have been swimming against a strong and swift current for decades. Had the reforms we are proposing been adopted a decade ago, Jeannette would not be experiencing its current fiscal distress."
"Unfortunately, Act 47 status does not offer municipalities the promise of hopeful change and reform as originally intended. Instead, many municipalities remain in an Act 47 holding pattern for decades with no light at the end of the tunnel," said Dr. Brian Jensen, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh.
"We have worked closely with the CSC and strongly believe that by reforming both the municipal binding arbitration and pension laws, which go hand in hand, we can begin to offer distressed communities a viable path forward while also preventing similar situations across the state."
One-third of Pennsylvania's municipal pension plans are considered distressed and almost every county in the state has at least one municipality with a pension plan under a high level of financial stress.
The CSC has also identified as critical the need to reform the binding arbitration process under Act 111 of 1968 (Policemen and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act), a chief cost driver for municipal budgets, pushing many toward fiscal distress and Act 47.
The Coalition for Sustainable Communities (CSC) is a growing alliance of over 30 organizations, including chambers of commerce and business groups, the Pennsylvania Municipal League, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Commissioners, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. The CSC was formed in 2011 to help the Commonwealth's urban, suburban and rural communities address growing economic and budgetary challenges. The CSC's 3-step campaign: protect the remaining beneficial, cost-saving elements to Act 47 (accomplished: Act 133 of 2012), reform Act 111 (binding arbitration) and reform municipal pension plans. For more information, as well as a complete listing of Coalition members, visit www.coalitionforsustainablecommunities.org or join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CoalitionforSustainableCommunities.