Pension Politics: Public Employee Retirement System Reform in Four States

Source: Patrick McGuinn, Brookings Institution, Brown Center on Education Policy, February 2014

From the summary:
….Pension Politics: Public Employee Retirement System Reform in Four States by Patrick McGuinn provides actionable policy recommendations for those states that are looking to enact such reforms. McGuinn examines recent pension reform efforts in four states with diverse political climates. Two of the states (Utah and Rhode Island) succeeded in passing significant structural changes to their pension systems, while the others (New Jersey and Illinois) enacted more limited, less innovative changes. McGuinn highlights what activities have and have not been successful in producing meaningful reform, and details a number of recommendations for other states seeking to successfully improve their underfunded pension systems. Key recommendations include:
– Avoid turning pension reform into an ideological issue
– Enlist a credible and visible reform champion (having a Democrat lead the effort goes a long way towards countering the charge that reforms are merely a conservative attack on labor)
– Clearly communicate the reality of their state’s pension liability and demonstrate pensions’ impact on taxes and other state spending priorities, such as education
– Sell the benefits of pension reform to state workers (as ultimately in the best interests of pension participants, relative to a system that can’t meet its obligations)
– Sell the benefits of pension reform to school reformers
– Anticipate and plan for legal challenges …