If most of us left unfinished work on our desks and departed on a month-long vacation, there's a good chance the boss would call us back and tell us to finish the job.
That's why Gov. Tom Corbett asked the General Assembly to come back and complete pension reform.
We would have to be blind not to see that Pennsylvania is at such a crossroads.
Right now, Pennsylvania has an unfunded pension debt that is close to twice the amount of the entire general budget. The Legislature has talked around the edges of the pension issue for three years, eventually caving in to political pressure from lobbyists for public sector unions.
That's a recipe for fiscal decline.
This year, 163 Pennsylvania school districts filed for an exception to the limit on tax increases, and they all included rising pension costs as the reason. Last year, 169 districts did the same. With pensions now taking up 63 cents of every new tax dollar raised, we run the risk of turning our school budgets into pension funds and little else.
Without a reform of pensions and a reordering of our spending priorities, we risk losing what we have built over the past three years:
Unemployment is at a five-year low.
More than 178,000 new private-sector jobs have been created.
In our state agencies, we have cut $600 million in unnecessary spending by doing things such as trimming the outsize fleet of state cars and other perks.
Every day, Pennsylvania families sit around their kitchen tables and figure out how to make ends meet, how to balance spending against income and pay for everything from a new roof for the house to college for their children. They see their property taxes rising and some may understand that it is due to skyrocketing pension costs.
Many however, do not. That's why the governor is taking the case for pension reform directly to the people of Pennsylvania – to hear their stories of how pension costs are affecting them and to tell them what he and some members of the Legislature are trying to do to help.
There is a pension reform plan now before the Legislature. It takes nothing away from current employees and retirees, and provides a new, sustainable system for future hires. Most importantly, it opens the door to reduced school budget costs and a halt to the endless cycle of property tax hikes.
The governor is calling upon the entire Legislature to tackle this problem for the sake of every homeowner family and worker in Pennsylvania. Collectively, we must take the first steps on the long journey toward a pension system that won't collapse under the weight of its own mounting debt. We must stand up to the special interests that have blocked pension reform, and fulfill the responsibilities the people of Pennsylvania entrusted to us.
He asks every family, every student and every worker in Pennsylvania to contact their legislator and tell them to take action on pension reform now. Pennsylvania deserves nothing less than our full effort.
— Jay Pagni is press secretary for Gov. Tom Corbett.