Editorial: Good job, legislators. Now do it again.
Sometimes, it feels good to be wrong.
After the state House last week failed to pass a comprehensive transportation bill, we predicted continued delay on legislation Pennsylvania desperately needed as personal agendas looked to trump the public good. The General Assembly's track record thus far on major issues has not encouraged optimism.
After that disappointing vote, however, legislators woke up and did the right thing. The House reversed itself and the Senate approved a compromise bill that Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law Monday. Enough people gave up something — a first step toward prevailing wage reform from Democrats, higher taxes and user fees from Republicans — to get the job done.
That's how government should work.
The transportation turnaround is encouraging. It shows that when it comes to crafting complex deals, our elected officials can execute.
We hope the lessons learned plus the sense of urgency that got the transportation bill to the finish line are quickly applied to the other big job looming in Harrisburg: public pension reform.
The facts and figures of this albatross on Pennsylvania's economic future are so well known there's probably not a state, municipal or school official who can't recite them from memory. If they can't, shame on them.
Unless these out-of-control obligations are reined in, and soon, public pensions will continue draining tax dollars away from other public needs, including education, job creation, development, public safety and business investment. According to state Rep. Glenn Grell, R-Cumberland, the tab is running about $3.9 million a day, adding to a funding gap that already stands at $47 billion.
School districts in 2014 face the highest contribution rate in history, leaving even less than usual for educating students and preparing them for the workforce. It's too late for next year, but as local taxes continue to rise, property owners need some assurance that their hard-earned dollars will go toward instructional materials and other direct educational needs rather than into the pension maw.
Indeed, pension reform should be the pivotal issue in the 2014 election for governor and General Assembly. This is one area where continually kicking the can down the road results in exponential harm for every business and individual.
Legislators have shown us they know how to serve the public interest. Now they need to show us, with meaningful pension reform, that the transportation bill was not a fluke.