ALEC: Unaccountable and Unaffordable: Unfunded Public Pension Liabilities Exceed $6 Trillion

Absent significant reforms, unfunded liabilities of state-administered pension plans will continue to grow and threaten the financial security of state retirees and taxpayers alike. The fiscal calamity could be far deeper and prolonged than the Great Recession.

View the pdf: ALEC: Unaccountable and Unaffordable: Unfunded Public Pension Liabilities Exceed $6 Trillion

The Hill: Pensions should avoid politics and invest for the benefit of our workers

Why do public fiduciaries think they should impose their political agenda on other people’s retirement benefits? Is not the standard of care to manage public retirement funds with the highest return at the lowest reasonable risk? With more than 50 percent of all state pension funds significantly underfunded and at least five states, including my native Connecticut, facing immanent bankruptcy due to grossly unfunded state employee and teacher pension systems, why would both beneficiaries and taxpayers, who will be forced to makeup those liabilities, want to politicize the management of the money? As I will also be a beneficiary in a few years, please manage the money without a political agenda.

 

When I was elected state treasurer of Connecticut in 1994, I inherited the worst performing state pension system in America for the previous 10 years. Within the first six months we fired the vast majority of money managers and indexed 75 percent of the portfolio. Yet, I was attacked for holding tobacco stocks in the portfolio, by virtue of the fact that we owned an S&P 500 stock index fund. I refused to play politics with the pension, particularly after 10 years of politics had relegated pension fund performance to the gutter. Instead, we focused on the highest return at a reasonable risk, and performance skyrocketed from dead last to the top 25 percent in the country, overnight.

 

Center for Retirement Research at Boston College: Public Plans Data 2017

The latest PPD update features:

  • Expanded 2016 plan data.
  • The creation of a new “Colorado State and School” plan for years 2001 to 2004.  Colorado state legislation enacted in 2004 (Senate Bill 04-257) provided for the separation of the Colorado State and School Divisions.   To better reflect this policy change, data for Colorado State and School plans are reported as a single entity from 2001 to 2004, and separately from 2005 forward.

View the public plans data: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College: Public Plans Data 2017

Washington State Retirement Systems

  • The Washington State pension fund covers 84% of liabilities, with certain subsets of the pension account in over 100 percent funding levels
  • The state of Washington currently has 74 billion dollars in assets and 13.8 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities, with an accrued liability of 88.17 billion dollars
  • The Tax Foundation ranks Washington #11 in the United States in terms of pension fund health
  • Using the new calculation system formulated by ALEC, the Washington State pension has a funding rate of just 31%. This is still middle of road according to these calculations- ALEC uses a risk-free rate for calculating returns on these pensions.

Resources:
Mercatus Center State Fiscal Health Report
Washington State Retirement Fund Report 2017
Urban Institute Washington Pension Report

Urban Institute: Evaluating Pension Reform Options with the Public Pension Simulator

Covering 14 million state and local government employees, public pension plans typically provide lifetime retirement benefits based on years of service and the salary earned near the end of a career. These pensions provide meaningful retirement security to employees covered by a plan for a full career, but offer few benefits to shorter-term employees, a drawback that is becoming increasingly problematic as people change jobs more frequently.

View the simulator: Urban Institute: Evaluating Pension Reform Options with the Public Pension Simulator

Urban Institute: State and Local Employee Pension Plan Database

The table below displays benefit rules for the state-administered plans in our database. Click a column header to sort the database. Click on a pension plan’s “Plan ID” to view the simulation and grading results for that plan. Use the text box to search and filter the database using keywords. Click on values in the “Additional Details on Early Retirement Penalties” to see detailed benefit reduction rules.

View the database: Urban Institute: State and Local Employee Pension Plan Database

Brookings Institution: Financing State and Local Pension Obligations: Issues and Options

Many states and municipalities are struggling to fund defined benefit pension plans for their employees. Between 2009 and 2013, in order to improve their pension status, almost every state implemented some combination of lower benefit accruals and higher employer or employee contributions. Numerous cities made changes as well for similar reasons.

View the pdf: Brookings Institution: Financing State and Local Pension Obligations: Issues and Options