Supreme Court bars attempt to resurrect adultBasic; calls into question Fiscal Code amendment process

A unanimous Pennsylvania Supreme Court Friday reversed an opinion of the Commonwealth Court and held those attempting to resurrect Pennsylvania’s now-defunct adultBasic health insurance program lack legal standing to challenge the defunding of the program.

The opinions came in the separate, but later consolidated, cases of Sears v. Wolf, Sear v. Smith, and Weisblatt v. Wolf.

In the Court’s opinion, Chief Justice Tom Saylor said that the language in the operative statute which established the adultBasic program made the insurance program an non-entitlement program, meaning those receiving funds from the program had no claim over those funds.

Friday, June 19, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Conditions already placed on use of fairer education funding formula?

Conditions already placed on use of fairer education funding formula?

Bipartisanship and cheer abounded at the Capitol Thursday for those taking part in the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission, which included representatives from all four legislative caucuses and the governor’s office, when they unanimously released their long-anticipated funding formula recommendations and other education funding suggestions.

The commission’s recommended funding formula was described as taking into account both student-based and district-based factors that are aimed at providing funding that is truly representative of a district’s needs and unique situation.

However, while many are anticipating swift action on legislative implementation of the commission’s recommendations, some are already putting preconditions on when it would be best to implement the new funding formula.

“There are certainly a group of struggling school districts it would take a number of years back to a basic, functional school district and that—in our view—is not an acceptable funding decision with new resources for the 15-16 fiscal year,” said Budget Secretary Randy Albright, a member of the commission.

Thursday, June 18, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

What might be coming down the pension pipeline?

Following Wednesday’s Public Employee Retirement Commission meeting, commission members and staff discussed with reporters what the commission has been working on and asked to look at with regard to possible upcoming pension bills and amendments.

Notably, other than the already-sunshined House Bill 727, the commission reports that it has not recently been officially asked to review any stand-alone state pension system reform bills.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Pension reform bill’s savings come at a high cost, PERC says

Pension reform bill’s savings come at a high cost, PERC says

The Public Employee Retirement Commission—colloquially known as PERC—approved an actuarial note to House Bill 900 Wednesday, and in so doing, reported that while the legislation provides for considerable pension savings over a shorter period of time than other reform proposals, it may require funding not in line with budget realities.

One of the policy considerations included in the actuarial note says the following:

“[House Bill 900] requires the systems' unfunded accrued liabilities to be fully funded over a period of 20 years, beginning July 1, 2015. Yet the bill fails to detail the source(s) of the additional funding necessary to fund the unfunded accrued liabilities in an accelerated amortization schedule. Policymakers may want to determine the viability of such a proposal in light of the Commonwealth's current budgetary climate.”

In fact, the commission went so far as to adopt an amendment to the actuarial review to emphasize the budgetary stress the pension reform bill would require, saying the almost $20 billion in combined savings “come at an immediate, substantial increase in contributions."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Liquor privatization precursor bill advanced by Senate committee

Liquor privatization precursor bill advanced by Senate committee

A bill some are saying is necessary to pass before a broader liquor privatization discussion moved through the Senate Law and Justice Committee Tuesday and now awaits action by the full chamber.

House Bill 189, introduced by Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie) would allow for the direct shipment of wine from wineries to Pennsylvania consumers. The bill passed the committee by a six to four party-line vote after being amended.

Sen. Charles McIlhinney (R-Bucks), chairman of the committee, said the bill is a necessary precursor to liquor privatization discussions.

“This issue is kind of sticking out as an issue that needs to be addressed before we can get to it,” he said in response to questions about broader liquor privatization discussions. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
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