One of the casualties of Governor Wolf’s budget veto was a little-known agency that independently reviews proposed changes to pubic pensions and regulates municipal pensions. The Public Employee Retirement Commission (PERC) was established by law in 1972, and its duties were expanded by two separate laws subsequently. Despite its statutory basis, Governor Wolf decided he could eliminate PERC with the stroke of a pen.
Representatives Stephen Bloom and Seth Grove disagreed and filed a lawsuit to keep PERC open. The Governor continues to argue that he has the authority to eliminate the agency without any input from the legislature. However, the administration entered into an agreement with the lawmakers to keep PERC open, and it was approved by a court.
Governor Wolf’s position is that the work performed by PERC can be performed by other agencies. He may be correct. PERC’s role might be able to be filled by non-dedicated employees at substantial savings to taxpayers. However, Wolf does not have the authority to eliminate an agency created by law on a whim. Instead, he should go through the legislative process and respect the separation of powers.
Governor Wolf is taking a nice leisurely stroll down the road toward authoritarianism and taking a page out of President Obama’s playbook on executive overreach. Limitations on the authority of the executive branch does not seem to be something the he is inclined to observe. Wolf is in the process of creating a constitutional crisis by vetoing prison funding and then requesting the same funds to be distributed by the Treasurer. Finally, he unilaterally raised the minimum wage for state employees.
We are just over a year into Wolf’s tenure. It will be interesting to see what he tries to get away with next.