Wolf, GOP remain at odds


A group of House Republicans from York and surrounding counties blasted Gov. Tom Wolf's recent veto of the state budget and other GOP-driven bills.

Friday, the day the Republicans gathered at the York County School of Technology in York Township for a news conference, marked the 10th day Pennsylvania has been without a budget, Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, noted.

When the state's 2014-15 fiscal year ended last week, Wolf vetoed a $30.2 billion Republican budget and a separate GOP-crafted bill to privatize Pennsylvania's state-controlled liquor and wine sales.

On Thursday, Wolf also vetoed a bill that Republicans say would have reformed pension plans for future state and school employees.

"To date, the governor has vetoed all these measures and refused to compromise," said Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township.

More than 20 local Democrats, some holding signs — some of which had "Tax shale to fund schools" written on them — turned out to demonstrate at the news conference. As it came to a close, some in the crowd chanted "No more (former Gov. Tom) Corbett budgets," in reference to the Republican-backed budget.

Bob Kefauver, head of the Democratic Party of York County, said the demonstration was a grass roots effort to show support for Wolf and to oppose the GOP budget.

"We knew our message was not going to reach the Republicans here today because they don't want to hear the message," he said.

Pension: During the news conference, Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, called the scuttled pension bill one that would have led from the front since House and Senate members would be booted from the existing plan when they are elected or re-elected.

Wolf has maintained his opposition to scrapping the existing pension plan in favor of a 401(k)-style plan.

The plan would not have affected current employees, retirees and beneficiaries in the traditional defined-benefit pension plans. Future employees would have been required to contribute at least 3 percent of their salary into the defined-contribution plan, with a 2.9 percent match from employers of school employees and 4 percent for state workers. The employees also would have been required to contribute 3 percent of their salary into a cash-balance plan, which would guarantee them a 4 percent return, and any excess gains would be shared between the employee and employer.

Grove said the plan is similar to one offered to Wolf Organization, founded by governor's ancestors and once headed by Wolf, employees.

"When businessman Tom Wolf's money is on the line, a 401(k) pension is generous and flexible. When the taxpayers' money is on the line, Governor Tom Wolf rejects the 401K concepts," Grove said.

Responses: The Wolf Organization offers profit sharing and 401k contributions of 3 to 4.5 percent, according to Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan.

"In business, Governor Wolf shared profits with employees and the Wolf Organization contributed to employees' retirements even when the employees did not because he knows that when the middle-class is strong our economy thrives," Sheridan wrote in an email.

Sheridan also reiterated why Wolf vetoed the GOP-led pension reform bill.

"The Republican bill forces newly-hired employees to pay down the unfunded liability of existing pension plans, caused by years of government failure to make necessary payments, while denying those new employees the full benefit of their contributions," he wrote. "Additionally, this legislation violates federal tax law as it would be considered an impermissible cash or deferred arrangement."

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.