Warren Kampf Brings Passion for Job Growth, Education to State House
Rep. Warren Kampf (R-157) had a "real eye opener" when, as a freshman House member in 2011, he witnessed firsthand the excessive clout organized labor wields in Harrisburg. "If they (labor) oppose a bill it doesn’t go through. That’s all there is to it," Kampf said. "I honestly can’t make any sense of it."
Labor’s ability to commandeer legislation has at times stymied Kampf’s goals, but hasn’t squelched the passion that motivated him to run for office in the first place — to create a climate friendly to job creation, something that "benefits everyone."
"All we have in this country stems from individual initiative," Kampf said. "I shudder to think where we would be without private enterprise and the entrepreneurial spirit." He’s supported bills that improved Pennsylvania’s legal climate and business tax structure, and has shepherded his own bills through the General Assembly: one modernizes corporate filings with the Department of State; others benefit his other main passion, education.
He’s gotten more than 102 votes for more than one of his bills and has seen pro-business bills he’s supported reach the Governor. He cites them as a big part of the reason the state’s unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent, the lowest since 2008. They include:
• Reform of joint and several in tort law.
• Business tax reforms that includes expansion of the net operating loss provision under the corporate income tax (CNI).
• The move to a single sales factor under the CNI.
• Staying on course to eliminate the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax.
His bill that modernizes corporate filings with the Department of State was approved unanimously, and another bill that reached the Governor encourages private sector job creation in science and technology through a Research & Development Tax Credit (InnovatePA). He has also sponsored or co-sponsored legislation to free schools from costly state mandates.
Born and raised in Devon, Pennsylvania, Kampf is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy of Exeter, NH, Yale University, and Emory University School of Law. In 2012, he was named co-chair of the House Life Science caucus, the first freshman legislator to hold this honor. He also serves the Liquor Control, Local Government, Consumer Affairs, and Urban Affairs committees. He served as a criminal prosecutor as a Deputy Prosecutor in the York County District Attorney’s Office and, later, as an Assistant District Attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. He served seven years as a Tredyffrin Township Supervisor, with two years as the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Kampf and his wife, Megan, are raising a son and a daughter in their home in Paoli.
Most recently, his legislative efforts have focused on the major policy issue of public pension reform. His bill to reform the pension systems that cover state workers (SERS) and public school teachers (PSERS), which are exhausting public resources at an accelerating rate, stalled in the House just before summer recess. The trouble isn’t what’s in the bill, which he calls a "commonsense" approach to the pension crisis; it’s who’s against it that counts, the unions representing state workers and public school teachers.
The legislation he sponsored with with Reps. Mike Tobash (R-125) and Chris Ross (R-158) would reduce a staggering unfunded liability in SERS and PSERS through a hybrid pension plan — a combination of the defined benefit pension currently in place and a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k) used by many private sector employees. It would save an estimated $11 billion to $20 billion over 30 years while maintaining a generous retirement benefit for future public employees. It does not reduce or in any way affect the pensions of current employees.
In a statement issued this past June after it became evident the bill would stall, Kampf didn’t hold back. "We had an opportunity to help avert a crisis. However, a majority of my House colleagues chose to play partisan politics and allow special interest groups to stop much-needed commonsense reform," he said. "Taking no action while our pension systems are underfunded…and fails to strengthen or guarantee the benefits of those currently in the system, puts the future of our school districts in jeopardy, and does not help taxpayers."
Governor Tom Corbett, who has been very vocal in his support of the Kampf proposal, is now travelling statewide to spread the message of how inaction on reform is costing taxpayers on the state and local level as well. For example, a recent statement from the Governor’s office notes that one hundred sixty-three school districts requested exemptions to increase property taxes, 99.4 percent of which cited pension costs as the reason for the exemption.
Funds that should be going to students and core government functions are instead going to an unfunded liability, at $50 billion and rising, that is quickly warping into a fiscal black hole. The crisis has prompted Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade Pennsylvania’s general obligation rating to Aa3 from Aa2. A lower rating means a higher borrowing rates; resulting in higher costs for taxpayers.
Governor Corbett’s office said in a statement that while the Commonwealth benefits from a strong economy and low unemployment, Moody’s stated that unfunded pension liabilities, projected to grow to $65 billion, will continue to be a major cost driver on the commonwealth.
"It’s clear that this pension crisis has put severe strain on Pennsylvania’s finances," the Governor said. "As families struggle with skyrocketing property taxes, pension costs are consuming more than 60 cents of every new dollar of state general fund revenues. Doing nothing is not an option and doing nothing fails our families."
Through it all, Kampf stays determined but realistic. He’s hopeful he’ll get the votes needed for pension reform when lawmakers return to Harrisburg in September. (The House does return August 4 but has a limited legislative agenda.) But acknowledges, "it takes a lot of work to get the 102 votes needed for any major piece of legislation."