Now why couldn't Gov. Tom Corbett have done this a year ago, two years ago — at his inauguration 3 ½ years ago, even?
In the past few days, the Republican governor launched a full-court press for pension reform, throwing the weight of his office and re-election campaign behind the effort, according to the Associated Press.
Corbett's campaign placed robocalls over the weekend criticizing lawmakers for pushing perks and earmarks, but failing to deal with a looming financial crisis.
In the recording, he called on them "to come back and deal with pension reform to avoid massive property tax increases and trouble for future education funding."
At an official stop Monday near Pittsburgh, Corbett urged Pennsylvanians to call their representatives, saying he needs three more senators and eight more House members to pass a reform bill.
The bill in question would save more than $10 billion over 30 years by creating a hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution pension that's less generous than what current state government and public school employees receive.
The Republican-controlled Legislature stripped the bill from the budget Corbett reluctantly signed Friday — although he did so after using line-item vetoes to cut $65 million from the lawmakers' own appropriations and $7.2 million in pork.
The gloves are off, and that's good for Pennsylvanians because it's focusing attention on a potentially devastating issue.
According to the Associated Press, the two major pension funds are underfunded by $50 billion. Payments by school districts and all agencies of the state government into the funds are on course to rise from $750 million in 2009 to more than $6 billion in less than four years.
Critics of reform say teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees are being scapegoated, and they have a good case. Lawmakers helped create this mess by delaying state contributions and increasing benefits over the years.
The fact remains we're on an unsustainable course. If you think school districts — and their taxpayers — are in a pinch now, just wait a few years.
However, there was no need to tie a reform bill to the budget and rush it through the Legislature, especially since there would have been no immediate savings.
In an op-ed here Monday, York County's Republican House delegation disagreed the process was rushed, saying pension reform has been in the works for three years and the current bill was introduced in April "after months of work with various stakeholders and lawmakers in both the House and Senate."
And yet some lawmakers complained the legislation was sprung on them.
Corbett says he only needs to convince a handful of them to support the plan.
We suggest he continue to use his bully pulpit — and call a special session, focused solely on pension reform, during which proponents can try to convince all of us that this particular plan is the way to go.