January 5, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Harrisburg, Penn.—A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Pennsylvania state House defeated a bill to cut pensions for state workers Dec. 19, derailing a budget deal between the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
Wolf had agreed to support the pension bill—which would have cut pensions for future state workers and public-school teachers in half, with the rest of their retirement benefits going to a 401(k)-style savings program—in exchange for a tax increase and a $30.8 billion budget for fiscal 2016. But the House voted 149-52 against the bill, with some far-right Republicans voting no in order to sabotage the tax increase. On Dec. 23, the Senate approved a budget $500 million smaller previously passed by the House, sending it to Wolf. The governor has not said whether he will sign or veto it, as it includes less school aid than what he wanted. With the state’s 2016 budget almost six months overdue, school districts are borrowing to stay open and prekindergarten programs are not taking in hundreds of children from low-income families.