Category Archives: Pensions

Local government – Minnesota – Legislation will reduce pension liabilities, but changes are far from a cure-all

Source: Benjamin J VanMetre, Daniel Simpson, Rachel Cortez, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, Sector Comment, June 26, 2018
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The State of Minnesota (Aa1 stable) approved legislation late last month that will change certain public pension benefits and modestly increase plan contributions by government employers and employees. The changes are credit positive for the state and its local governments because they will reduce unfunded pension liabilities and improve plan funding. Even after the changes, however, local governments across Minnesota, particularly school districts, will continue to face high pension burdens….

Unintended Consequences: How Scaling Back Public Pensions Puts Government Revenues at Risk

Source: Michael Kahn, National Conference on Public Employee Retirement System (NCPERS), May 2018

The argument that taxpayers cannot afford public pensions has gained traction despite a woeful lack of empirical evidence to support it. Legislators across the nation are contemplating options for the future funding of public-sector worker retirement benefits at a time when competition for finite state and local resources is fierce. The reasons are familiar: the lingering effects of recession and misguided budget priorities have taken a toll. Time and again, defined-benefit pensions for firefighters, police officers, teachers, and other public servants have ended up on the chopping block, even though plan participants have consistently held up their end of the bargain.

Unintended consequences often flow from policy actions that are made with short-term pressures in mind. There is a real risk that reducing or even dismantling public pension benefits will ultimately backfire. Tn this installment of ongoing research on the impact of public pensions on the U.S. economy, NCPERS set out to quantify that risk.

The question we asked is this: How does the payment of defined pension benefits and the investment of pension assets impact state and local economies and revenue generation? ….

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Minnesota’s New Pension Bill Is A Positive Step Toward Sustainable Funding

Source: Cora Bruemmer, Eden P Perry, Todd N Tauzer, Sussan S Corson, S&P Global Ratings, June 7, 2018
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Minnesota’s new pension bill is a positive step toward improving funding of the state’s pension plans, but because contributions remained fixed in state statute, there could eventually be a regression in plan funded status, in S&P Global Ratings’ view.

State and Local Government Workforce: 2018 Data and 10 Year Trends

Source: Gerald Young, Center for State and Local Government Excellence, International Public Management Association for Human Resources, and the National Association of State Personnel Executives, May 2018

From the summary:
Since 2009, the Center for State and Local Government Excellence has partnered with the International Public Management Association for Human Resources and the National Association of State Personnel Executives to conduct a study on state and local workforce issues. This year’s report contains both 2018 data on emerging issues like the gig economy and flexible work practices and longitudinal data on recruiting challenges, retirement plan or health benefit changes, hiring, and separations from service.

Illinois (State of) – Pension burden will erode credit without offsetting actions

Source: Ted Hampton, Thomas Aaron, Emily Raimes, Nicholas Samuels, Timothy Blake, Moody’s, Issuer In-Depth, May 30, 2018
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When fiscal 2019 begins on July 1, the State of Illinois faces a sharp jump in its budgetary fixed costs, which include debt service, retiree healthcare, and pension contributions. These cost pressures are likely to intensify in future years.

State and local government workers preparing for retirement: Do you understand your plan formula?

Source: Natalie Kramer and Jesus Ranon-Hernandez, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Beyond the Numbers, Vol. 7 no. 6, May 2018

The National Compensation Survey (NCS) publishes information on the coverage and provisions of employer-sponsored benefit plans for private industry and state and local government workers. For workers approaching retirement age, trying to make sense of retirement options can be daunting. The NCS can provide answers to questions such as the following:

– How much of a benefit will I receive at retirement?
– If I retire early, will my benefits be reduced?
– Will my benefits be increased if I work a few more years?

This issue of Beyond the Numbers describes basic retirement formulas by using different retirement scenarios and formulas to illustrate the monthly retirement benefit. Two examples are provided for specificity…..

How Have Pension Cuts Affected Public Sector Competitiveness?

Source: Laura D. Quinby, Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, and Jean-Pierre Aubry, ons for the 2014 improvements, according to their, Issue Brief, April 9, 2018

Summary:
State and local data from 2005 to 2014 show the impact pension cuts have on the ability of governments to recruit, retain, and retire talented employees.

Key findings:
One of the central findings is that, especially for new hires, the implementation of pension reform hampered governments’ ability to attract new employees. This is important to note in an environment where governments are experiencing increases in retirements and are competing for talent at a time when unemployment rates, especially for those with college degrees, are relatively low.

Accounting, Politics, and Public Pensions

Source: Steven W. Thornburg and Kirsten M. Rosacker, CPA Journal, April 2018

Defined benefit pension plans offer politicians a convenient way to satisfy public employee demands while providing the means to defer budgeted cash payments and hide the accumulation of public debt from taxpayers. The authors describe how this plays out in practice and how accounting standards facilitate such activity. The accounting profession, and Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) in particular, could do more to inform taxpayers about the state of public finances. The longstanding failure to do so, the authors argue, allows public debt to accumulate until a crisis is reached.

I Work with Mark Janus. Here’s How He Benefits from a Strong Union.

Source: Donnie Killen, Labor Notes, May 11, 2018

Like everyone else in the labor movement, I’m nervously awaiting the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which would weaken public sector unions by letting workers receive the benefits of representation without contributing toward the cost.

But I’ve got a unique vantage point: I work in the same building as the plaintiff, Mark Janus.

We’re both child support specialists for the state of Illinois, where we do accounting on child support cases. I do this work because it’s fulfilling to help kids and single parents get the resources they need to support themselves.

What convinced Mr. Janus to join this destructive lawsuit? Your guess is as good as mine. I do know it’s much bigger than him. He’s the public face, but this case is backed by a network of billionaires and corporate front groups like the National Right-to-Work Foundation.

But the truth is, even Mark Janus himself benefits from union representation. Here are a few of the ways:

1. Without our union, Mr. Janus’s job would probably have been outsourced by now. ….
2. Mr. Janus has received $17,000 in union-negotiated raises. ….
3. The public—including the parents and kids Mr. Janus serves—has access to resources like childcare that our union has fought to defend. ….
4. Our union blocked the employer from doubling the cost of Mr. Janus’s health benefits. ….
5. We make sure Mr. Janus’s office is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. ….
6. Thanks to our union, Mr. Janus will retire with a pension. ….
7. Mr. Janus can get sick and still have a job when he comes back. ….
8. Our union ensured that Mr. Janus could be fairly hired, regardless of his politics. ….

The Real Reason Behind Recent Teacher Strikes — And Why They’re Likely to Continue

Source: Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene, Governing, May 10, 2018

It’s about much more than low salaries.

…. In 26 states, average teacher salaries, adjusted for inflation, were less in 2016 than they were at the end of the 20th century, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Two years ago, an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report documented the dive in weekly wages for teachers compared to other workers with comparable education requirements. In 2015, an average teacher made 17 percent less than comparable workers in salary. Back in 1994, the salary gap was 1.8 percent. ….

…. Teachers in Oklahoma still worry about the dangers to student education of going to a four-day school week in some districts. In Kentucky, there’s been no money for teacher professional development, extended school services have been cut and schools haven’t been able to spend money on textbooks.
Arizona school districts will still struggle to fund all the needs that have piled up. Years of cuts have, for example, left the school transportation budget severely underfunded. ….

Related:
Where Teacher Salaries Most Lag Behind Private Sector
Source: Mike Maciag, Governing, April 30, 2018

States where teachers are protesting have among the largest pay discrepancies when compared with similarly educated private-sector workers.