The candidates for the 6th District seat in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives seek different approaches in dealing with the state’s pension crisis.

Republican incumbent Brad Roae of East Mead Township is facing Democratic challenger Juanita Shutsa of Meadville in Tuesday’s election for the 6th District seat which encompasses central Crawford County, including the City of Meadville. Roae is completing his fourth term the in state House of Representatives. Shutsa is a music teacher having taught at both Allegheny College and Crawford Central School District.

Both candidates were asked what should state government do to address the looming crisis involving shortfalls in state employee, state universities and local school district pensions?

Roae advocates passing currently proposed state pension reform legislation.

“This won’t change the pensions for current retirees or current employees, but it will affect new employees coming into the state system,” Roae said.

Under the proposal, those earning up to $50,000 would be in a defined benefit plan. Above $50,000, it would be in a 401(k)-type retirement plan, Roae said.

“You won’t fix the problem, but you’ll keep it from getting worse, Roae said.

Asked why not fix the problem outright, Roae was blunt in his answer.

“Right now, there are not enough votes (in the state Legislature) to pass this,” Roae said of the current proposal. “(Pension) reform plans keep getting watered down to earn enough votes (for passage).”

Shutsa said the state has a contractual obligation to the current system.

“Whatever is owed must be paid,” Shutsa said. “We need to look at finding new revenues. We need to have an extraction tax on oil and natural gas. We need to close the Delaware loophole for corporations.”

The Delaware loophole is when a Pennsylvania firm incorporates in Delaware to avoid or minimize its Pennsylvania taxes.

Shutsa called the current state budget “a disaster.”

“I’m not looking to go kill anybody (with taxes), but we need to figure out a way to make sure it’s taken care of,” she said of the pension crisis. “As a taxpayer, it’s frustrating year after year to watch the Legislature not address it. We need to stop playing games in the Legislature.”

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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