Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | Controversy doesn't stop group from disclosing pension figures

Findings from TUA’s pension project on Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are featured in this article at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. UPDATE: An update to the original release that this article is based on has been made here.

A group that is crisscrossing the nation raising alarms about underfunded public pension plans says it will continue to name names, even though some of its data was called into question on Monday in Pittsburgh.

A spokeswoman for Taxpayers United of America said the group is publishing the names and pension incomes of top public pensioners to emphasize the cost to taxpayers.

“Many government retirees make more in pension payments than the private-sector taxpayers make in salaries,” said Christina Tobin, vice president of the group. “Both the economy and the pension system are in serious trouble. While taxpayers struggle to save for their own retirement and fund the pension system, government retirees have to be concerned that their pension payments continue.”

Confronted with statements that it dramatically inflated pensions for three Pittsburgh retirees, Tobin’s group said those numbers came from the city and would be corrected when the city issues new numbers.

Charles Dayieb, a retired parking supervisor the city says receives an annual pension of $27,380, laughed when he heard the group put his benefit at $180,331 a year.

“If you can find that, please tell me where it is,” Dayieb said.

The group, whose numbers were questioned in Ohio, wants state, local and federal government agencies to place all new employees in 401(k)-type pension plans. Public employees already in lifetime pension plans should be required to increase their contributions by 10 percent and pay half of their health care costs, Tobin said.

They plan to take their proposals to Harrisburg on Wednesday.

Gov. Tom Corbett said he is concerned about the threat public pension costs pose to state and local governments.

“We have to look at the pension issue. This is the Pac-Man of the budget,” Corbett said, referring to the video game in which voracious creatures gobble up everything in sight.

Corbett said taxpayer costs for the pension systems that cover state employees and public school workers are scheduled to increase from $1.6 billion this year to $4 billion in 2016.

Economist Steve Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center, cautioned that 401(k)-type plans often include higher overhead costs than traditional pensions.

“Most of those proposals amount to a transfer of money from Main Street to Wall Street,” he said.

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