Pa. pension watchdog agency back for now

Greg Gross

A state pension watchdog agency shuttered by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in February is once again being funded — for the time being.

The 2015-16 fiscal year budget Wolf let become law last month provided funding for the Public Employee Retirement Commission, commonly called PERC, allowing it to permanently reopen.

Wolf's chief of staff Mary Isenhour and John Albright, the secretary of the budget, acknowledged that the budget provides funding to allow PERC to resume its statutory duties, according to a letter sent to the commission on Monday.

Funding for PERC was partially cut off as part of  the 2015-16 fiscal year budget partially line-item vetoed in December, forcing the commission to close.

PERC was created by an act of the General Assembly in 1981 and provided an independent review and analysis of proposed pension reform legislation and review of municipal pension plans.

Lawsuit: The defunding of PERC and its closure prompted two Republican lawmakers in the House — Reps. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, and Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland County — to sue the governor in the state Commonwealth Court, arguing Wolf didn't have the authority to close the commission.

"I think it's something that didn't have to happen," Grove said.

In early March, the pair reached a court-approved agreement with the administration for PERC to temporarily reopen until the court ruled on the matter. The court was to make its decision next month.

But now that the budget provides funding for PERC, the lawsuit will be dropped, Grove said.

However, Wolf proposed eliminating PERC as part of his 2016-17 budget proposal, Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for the governor, wrote in an email.

That could cause another lawsuit to be filed.

"If the governor tries it again, it will be back," Grove said.

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