Saturday, July 11, 2009

Governor Rendell Helped Pittsburgh's Financial Woes

Todd Eachus stated publicly that he would not pass legislation "specifically" for Hazleton. Governor Rendell and Todd Eachus had no problem passing not just one but a package of bills specifically for the City of Pittsburgh.

November 2004

Governor Edward G. Rendell today signed a package of bills that will help restore Pittsburgh to fiscal health and provide it with stable sources of funding. The bills include reforms to the city’s business taxes, a phased reduction in the city parking tax, an increase in the city’s occupational privilege tax and an increase in the earned-income tax on visiting athletes.

Those bills contained taxation issues while Eachus claims finding a fix for the City's(Hazleton) problem right now is impractical. Evidently it wasn't impractical for Pittsburgh.

IssuesPA has a great article highlighting the problems faced by Pittsburgh. One of the problems detailed. The largest single factor in its rising debt service payments has been the city's bonding of unfunded pension liability. Annual expenditures for pension costs, benefits and debt service are expected to have increased $119 million between 1993 to 2005. Most cities in this Commonwealth are in the same boat defined in a report submitted by James McAneny of the Public Employees Retirement Commission..

It is no secret that Todd Eachus is using unprecedented legislative tactics for inexcusable political retribution. His use of scare tactics with the police and fire unions in Hazleton over unfunded pension liability is wagging the dog. The unfunded pension liability is due to losses in the stock market that every pension faced in the current financial meltdown. It is time Eachus remembers who put him in office. Arrogance that the office will always be his blinds him to the realities of mankind. Be kind and kindness will be a reward. Being arrogant lulls one into a false sense of competence and entitlement.


Dan Cheek said...

It seems to me that you're trying, awfully hard and with great persistence, to make the Hazleton budget disaster Todd Eachus's problem. This strikes me a little off the mark, especially since it was Hazleton mayor Lou Barletta and the city council who made this mess.

You claim that "The unfunded pension liability is due to losses in the stock market." Not entirely true. At all. Barletta used the pension money for uses that it was not intended for, and that's according to a State Audit. Essentially, Barletta and the city council broke the law and now must pay that money back. Which they can't afford.

Demanding that Todd Eachus help pass a law to fix Barletta's mistake is like demanding that a law be passed to keep a drunk driver from going to jail for killing another person. Barletta broke the law. Barletta used the pension fund inappropriately. Now, sadly, there will be consequences for that. If you want to be mad at anyone, be mad at Lou Barletta. He's the one who got Hazleton into this mess.

McGruff said...

Todd Eachus was elected to represent and help his district. Pension problems are not by any means new to Hazleton nor most communities in Pennsylvania as evidenced by the report from James McAneny.

You are flat wrong about the levy of the tax and where the money should be. It wasn't necessary to tax as high as it was to meet the pension funding obligation. There is no MMO(Minimum Municipal Obligation) finding in any audit report therefore there is not funding issue. Todd Eachus created that issue.

The Senate by a vote of 49-0 backed helping Hazleton. The Public Employees Retirement Commission supported Senate bill 961. The Chief Counsel of the Auditor General supported 961. The only one against it is Todd Eachus.

961 will not only help Hazleton but many communities in the Commonwealth. That is what the General Assembly is for and that is why Todd Eachus needs to be a little more serious about his district and little less political about seeking retribution for his buddy Kanjo.

Please don't lecture me about great persistence. Look at your website top attack Lou Barletta. You should be careful where you go with your stuff. Some of it begs legal review.

McGruff said...


You also fail to address what would have happened to Hazleton if the Mayor and City Council did not take the approach they did. Massive layoffs, cancelled union contracts, and total reduction of services. Hazleton could have taken that route but didn't because it was in the best interest of the City, its residents, and employees to find a creative solution.

You admit Hazleton can't afford to pay back the money. Hazleton didn't have the money in the first place. Remember that Hazleton is a Third Class City and was restricted by PA law on how much its millage could be. So Eachus and the legislature hamstrung the City's millage hence no way to fund retiree's healthcare and now wants to cause more harm.

SB 961 was introduced on June 11, 2007. It was sent to the House on June 26, 2007 where it sat and sat. A hearing wasn't held until August 18, 2008. That is why this issue is in Todd Eachus's lap. He prevented it from coming out of committee for a vote.

He says 961 is dead. How many other bills died during legislative session but were reintroduced in the following year? How many died and were reintroduced year after year? Its dead because he worked himself into a corner but not giving himself an out. He has declared to people he will not allow 961 to become law. Why?

Hazleton is the biggest city in Eachus's district? Ask him how much money and what has he really done for Hazleton?

You say Hazleton "broke the law". Prove that statement. Even the Auditor General admitted there is a gray area hence the reason it held off on its findings and enforcement. The Auditor General has made a finding that is being challenged. The case is in Commonwealth Court without a decision. Until that decision comes down you can't state with certainty that anyone "broke the law." The law states that a pension includes the various aspects of retirement coverage including periodic retirement payments AND benefits of active and retired members of the pension plan.

Don't you think your comparison about drunk people killing others is a little over the top. No one died in this issue. As a matter of fact many jobs were saved. Retiree's healtcare benefits were saved. IF you are about the common person does your rage against Barletta blind you to the real people who will be hurt, not by Barletta, but by a legislture that is ignoring pension problems faced by a host of municipalitites?

Anonymous said...

Hazleton is broke - it ran the last 3 years of deficit. That wasn't counting the diverted ACT 205. If you count those, he has been running a deficit since 2003. Barletta also had that money from the sludge. He brings in questionable stuff to dump inside Hazleton borders(why else do they pay us to take it?) and that wasn't enough. It is just bad management and now he wants to be bailed out. He spent money the City didn't have, kept it out of the newspaper that he was running a deficit so he would look like a wonderful Congress candidate. Now it is coming out, and the rat that help create the mess (Sam Monticello) already jumped ship.

So tell me, how was this Todd's problem?

McGruff said...

The state has a $3.2 billion dollar deficit. Is Eachus trying to figure that one out? He should, he and Rendell created it. What is his answer- RAISE TAXES!!

Go back to the statement, the Pennsylvania legislature limits all third class cities to 25 mills levy. The law allows an additional amount of 5 mills and that is it. With increassing healthcare, fuel, and salary costs it was only a matter of time before the divergence culminated into catastrophe.

Yes the City would be in a deficit situation without the funds but that is a backwards look that is not entirely accurate. If the City didn't have the funds there would have been layoffs and more importantly ACT 47 would be in place. Union contracts would be null and void and what those men and women earned would be thrown out.

The Scranton firefighters have not had a dime raise in 6 years under ACT 47. Is that what you really want, to hurt people? Get a life.

Property tax reform has been on the back burner for years. The legislature places the property tax system in place for municipalities. That is why it is Todd' s problem. The City found a way to go around a problem created by the legislature's hamstring in taxation and Todd doesn't want to fix the taxation mess his legislature created. ACT 205 needs to be modified so other cities can take advantage of a way to fund their obligations without digging into the general fund which pays for day to day active operations.

Every municipality is at the mercy of the Pennsylvania legislature for its ability to tax. And that is why this situation is Todd's and every legislator in Harrisburg.

You make it sound like money was squandered. It paid for police, fire, street, and ancillary services- all for Hazleton residents.

The dredge helped hire 6 police officers, something Eachus actively campaigned against. He was against the police in that situation and he is against the police and firefighters in this one. His meeting didn't offer a solution, only a stall tactic that will cost the City of Hazleton thousands for its attorneys to meet with his.

He flipped when Yudichak wanted to introduce a discharge resolution so the entire House could vote on 961. That is another reason why this is Eachus's problem. He used unprecedented legislative tactics to make it look like Barletta had a problem when in fact the solution was introduced and passed in the Senate 49-0. IF 49 Senators didn't see a problem helping Hazleton why does the legislator who represent it have a problem? Stauy on point, pure and simple politics. Eachus is willing to use Hazleton residents as pawns in his political game.

This issue is not about Eachus and Barletta. It is about the impact it will have on all Hazleton residents and employees. The sooner people focus on that outcome, the sooner it will not be a Barletta or Eachus battle.

Anonymous said...

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