Orie Rejects Pittsburgh Pension Bailout

Article excerpt

If the state helps Pittsburgh escape its deepening pension problem, it would set "a horrible precedent" for dozens of Pennsylvania towns in similar straits, state Sen. Jane Orie said Thursday.

"They have put themselves in this (position)," Orie, a McCandless Republican, said of Pittsburgh's government leaders during a meeting with editors and reporters at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "How can the state reward that type of conduct?"

"I think that they're going to have to start looking at changing the entire pension system," she said. "It's going to be a hard reality."

Pittsburgh's anemic pension fund hovers between 40 percent and 45 percent of the money it would need to pay its liabilities to about 3,330 active members.

As of April, the city had $374 million in its pension fund. But if all employees in the system wanted to collect their pensions right now, it would cost the city $843.3 million.

Pittsburgh must put about $31 million a year into the pension account to tread water, city records show.

Barbara McNees, chairwoman of Pittsburgh's state oversight board, agreed yesterday with Orie's take.

"It really does need a much more universal solution than the Legislature itself would be able to provide by giving money," McNees said. "If it gave money to Pittsburgh, there would be 99 other communities with their hands out."

At the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities Convention in June in Scranton, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl gave a presentation showing Pittsburgh's pension funding was the worst compared to 11 smaller towns with underfunded pensions.

Ravenstahl emphasized that Pittsburgh's problem is not unique and was decades in the making. …