Legislators answer questions from school retirees
The Lehigh Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees recently had a Meet the Legislators event at Iron Lakes Country Club, North Whitehall Township.
The bi-annual meeting, chaired by member Jan Rush, offered a forum for discussing topics and providing updates on the efforts of local lawmakers.
A prominent concern on the minds of PASR members included underfunded pensions.
State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-18th, spoke of the current gridlock in Harrisburg.
“We must change the way we redistrict in Pennsylvania,” she urged. “Unless we get more swing moderate districts, we will just become more paralyzed (partisan wise),” Boscola said, citing the convoluted and constant redistricting in Pennsylvania.
She was also steadfast about the need to re-examine property taxes.
“This is the only tax I know where you can lose an asset,” she said.
Speaking next, state Rep. Daniel McNeill, D-133rd, minced no words.
“Education is a must, whether it’s an apprenticeship, whether it’s teachers, whatever, we need it,” McNeill said.
State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-132nd, also spoke bluntly.
“Education is without a doubt the thing that I talk about the most with the people in my district,” he said.
According to Schlossberg, a story in the Washington Post recently claimed Pennsylvania has the most unequal education system in the country.
“It’s a system where school districts like Allentown get the short end of the stick,” Schlossberg said. “There is no doubt in my mind that implementing a basic education funding formula is a necessity.”
Ellen Kern attended on behalf of state Sen. Pat Browne, R-16th, who was in Harrisburg.
On his behalf, Kern also addressed the funding inequity.
“Senator Browne is a big proponent for education,” Kern said. “He is convinced there is a minimum amount that should be spent on each and every child no matter where that child lives”
Another hot topic was the status of the state pension system.
While allaying some concerns of the retirees, state Rep. Justin Simmons, R-131st, also stressed the current depressed state of the pension system has been over a decade in the making.
“About the pension system, both sides are at fault,” Simmons said. “In 2001, both sides made a decision to take money out of the pension system.”
He said when the market crashed in 2008, so did the investments.
“It was an irresponsible decision which left $54 billion in unfunded liability,” he said.
Simmons reassured the pensioners.
“If you’re currently in the system, your pension won’t be touched,” Simmons said.
The soon to retire, state Rep. Julie Harhart, R-183rd, also attended.
“Education has always been a very important issue to me,” Harhart said, thanking those in attendance for their support over the years.
Currently in her 11th term, Harhart is not seeking reelection in November.
“It’s been a great run. I’ve made so many friends,” she said.