Pennsylvania was sprinting toward
financial meltdown with its unfunded pension liabilities and its state
lawmakers apathetic to do anything about it.
That was until a small think-tank sounded the alarm in 2005. The
Commonwealth Foundation, or CF, published the seminal report, “Beneath the Surface,”
which kicked off what would become a twelve-year effort to avert the crisis.
CF created a statewide campaign encompassing research effective advocacy,
public awareness, and marketing to advance pension reform. Its staff worked
closely with state lawmakers to craft the legislation and garner support.
And despite intense opposition from government unions and Pennsylvania’s
Governor Tom Wolf, CF scored a major victory for the people of Pennsylvania
when the state finally passed a comprehensive pension reform bill into
law in 2017. This reversed the growth trend of unfunded liabilities, which had
grown by 730 percent from 2006 to 2016. Now Pennsylvania is holding the line
against future risk to the state’s taxpayers, with a projected savings of
five to thirty billion dollars over the next thirty years. This is a case study
of a state-based public policy group demanding better outcomes for its fellow
citizens, and after a decade’s worth of work it delivered.