James Halpin • citizensvoice.com • March 26, 2014
The prospect of starting a county-owned bank generated contentious debate during the Luzerne County Council meeting Tuesday night, with several members of the public questioning its feasibility.
Council Vice Chairman Edd Brominski has suggested creating a public bank to alleviate the county’s massive debt. He hosted a breakfast seminar Monday morning in which Mike Krauss, a director of the Public Banking Institute, said such a facility could help reduce government debt and slash interest rates while keeping county money local.
The bank would assist local banks with capital for loans and would not compete with them, Krauss said. Krauss suggested money that has been “squirreled away,” such as pension funds, could fund the endeavor.
That has been a sticking point.
Kevin O’Brien, a former deputy director of the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency, questioned Tuesday whether it would be legal to use pension funds in such a manner and whether shareholders would have a say.
“What I’m concerned about is my investment in the pension fund,” O’Brien said. “I worked for this county for 30 years and I enjoy my retirement.”
County solicitor David Pedri noted the concept is in its early stages but said any borrowing from the pension fund would have to be approved by the Luzerne County Retirement Board.
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