Pennsylvania Rep. DiGirolamo (R) Stymies Pension Reform

State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) thwarted Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s call for pension reform today when his motion to recommit the bill to the Human Services Committee passed in the House 107-96.

Fifteen Republicans joined with Democrats to pass DiGirolamo’s motion.

Corbett has not signed the state budget passed by the House and Senate on June 30th and urged legislators to continue working on pension reform. This particular bill, sponsored by state Rep. Warren Kampf (R-Chester) with an amendment from Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill), is a hybrid plan that would allow current employees to stay on their costly defined-benefit plan, while new employees would move into a 401(k)-style retirement plan. Corbett has been very vocal in his support of the Tobash amendment.

DiGirolamo’s move to recommit Corbett’s preferred pension plan to the Human Services Committee, however, is seen as a move that will kill any substantive pension reform, at least until the fall. The Patriot-News wrote the move would, “effectively kill the chances of passage for the administration’s preferred reform plan.” 

As the chair of the Human Services Committee, DiGirolamo has the power to move the bill in the future or keep it locked up in committee. His staunch support for labor unions — despite the “R” after his name — makes the latter more likely, as unions across the state have been lobbying hard to keep their generous pension plans.

DiGirolamo’s soft-spot for labor unions is no secret.

In 2012, DiGirolamo received $162,457 for his reelection campaign. Of that total, labor unions contributed an astounding $83,200. DiGirolamo also runs Good Jobs PA Political Action Committee (PAC), which is funded almost, if not entirely, by labor unions. He then funnels that money to Republican colleagues and then marshals their support for a union agenda. On top of that, DiGirolamo was endorsed by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO at its annual convention in April, where he was a a featured speaker.

Perhaps because of these ties, DiGirolamo has been outspoken in his opposition to this particular pension plan.

“What’s the rush?” DiGirolamo asked in his comments on the floor. He suggested reopening discussion on pension reform after the summer recess.

The state pension systems are $50 billion in debt, however, and without pension reform, that number won’t be improving anytime soon.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article mistakenly identified Rep. Mike Tobash as the sponsor of the pension reform bill.