Category Archives: Public Sector

NCPERS 2012 Public Fund Study

Source: National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems and Cobalt Community Research, 2012

In April and May 2012, the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) undertook the most comprehensive study to date addressing retirement issues for this segment of the public sector. In partnership with Cobalt Community Research, NCPERS has collected and analyzed the most current data available on member funds’ fiscal condition funds and steps they are taking to ensure fiscal and operational integrity.

The 2012 NCPERS Public Fund Study includes responses from 147 state and local government pension funds with a total number of active and retired memberships surpassing 7.5 million and assets exceeding 1.2 trillion. The majority – percent – were local pension funds, while 16 percent were state pension funds.

The study finds that public funds continue to respond to changes in the economic, political and social landscape by adopting substantial organizational and operational changes to ensure long‐term sustainability for their stakeholders. Efforts include increasing age and service requirements, increasing member contributions, stronger operational practices and more diligent oversight.

Public vs. Private Sector Cuts: A State-by-State Breakdown

Source: Mike Maciag, Governing, June 4, 2012

Nearly all states coped with sizable private sector job losses during the recession along with now-sluggish growth. How these private sector cuts have carried over to the public sector, though, has varied greatly across the country.

While public payrolls generally downsized in recent years, a Governing analysis of Labor Department data finds state and local government reductions being applied unevenly so far, with employment growing or remaining roughly unchanged in about half of states since the start of the recession. Private sector employment, by contrast, increased in only five states

Best Places to Work Snapshot: Satisfaction with Pay

Source: Partnership for Public Service, Snapshots, May 2012

From the abstract:
Recent studies comparing public- and private-sector pay are contradictory, with some concluding that federal workers earn more than their private-sector counterparts and others claiming they earn less money. The latest report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that highly educated federal employees are underpaid relative to their counterparts in the private sector, and that federal employees with less education tend to be overcompensated. But what do federal employees themselves think about their pay and how does pay affect their job satisfaction?

The Partnership for Public Service set out to understand these questions as part of its Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® analysis, which is based on data from the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

ERISA Failures and the Erosion of Workers' Rights: The Urgent Need to Protect Private Practice & Public Workers' Pensions and Benefits

Source: James P. Allen, Jr. & Richard A. Bales, Albany Law Review, Volume 75 Issue 1, 2011/2012

On March 11, 2011, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed into law a bill that eliminated most collective bargaining rights for the state’s public-sector workers. Many other cash-strapped states followed Wisconsin’s lead and introduced or enacted similar restraints on the rights of their workers. Thousands of public workers, whose only means of protecting their rights rested in their ability to collectively bargain, suddenly found their retirement benefits in jeopardy. This truth highlighted the lack of protections for public worker benefits similar to those of the private sector. However, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, enacted for that purpose, has failed to secure these benefits. This article seeks to provide a broad overview of the crisis facing the pension and benefits system in the United States and offers some possible solutions. More importantly, the goal is to spur discourse on the urgent need to protect the benefits of all workers, public and private.

Containing Health-Care Costs: Proven Strategies for Success in the Public Sector

Source: Shayne Kavanagh, Government Finance Review, Vol. 28 no. 2, April 2012
(subscription required)

GFOA research has identified four techniques that have the potential to contain costs while preserving the value of the benefit for employees: onsite clinics; employee wellness programs; consumer-directed health care; and value-based insurance design.

Are Dues Check-Off and Agency Shop in the Public Interest?

Source: Joseph Slater and Daniel DiSalvo, Public Sector Inc., Online Debates, April 2012

In 2011, Republican-majority legislatures in Wisconsin and Ohio passed, and governors in both states signed, legislation reforming government labor relations. Among the specific provisions, the measures sought to restrict collective bargaining for most public workers and eliminate government’s collection of union dues. A pitched battle has ensued, most notably in Wisconsin where Governor Scott Walker faces a recall election that some say will set the tone for November’s presidential contest. This debate will examine the arguments for and against “dues check-off” and “agency shop” legal provisions that benefit public-sector unions. These provisions, under which the government automatically withholds union dues from the salaries of both union and non-union public employees, have been the focal point of debate in Wisconsin and across the country.

The Funding of State and Local Pensions: 2011-2015

Source: Alicia H. Munnell, Jean-Pierre Aubry, Joshua Hurwitz, Madeline Medenica and Laura Quinby, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, SLP#24, May 2012

From the summary:
The brief’s key findings are:
– During 2011, the funded status of public plans slipped from 76 percent to 75 percent.
– This decline reflected slow asset growth due to actuarial smoothing, which was partly mitigated by an unexpected reduction in liability growth.
– Going forward, the funded ratio is projected to remain steady next year and then gradually improve as the market meltdown is phased out of the calculations.

Public-Employee Retirement Systems State- and Locally-Administered Pensions Summary Report: 2010

Source: Erika Becker-Medina, U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division Briefs, G10-ARET-SL, April 30, 2012

From the press release:
The nation’s state and local public-employee retirement systems had $2.7 trillion in total cash and investment holdings in 2010, a $257.2 billion or 10.6 percent increase from $2.4 trillion in 2009, according to new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. This follows a $722.2 billion loss the previous year.

These statistics come from the 2010 Annual Survey of Public-Employee Retirement Systems, which provides an annual look at the financial activity and membership information of the nation’s state and local public-employee retirement systems, including revenues, expenditures, investment holdings, and number of retirement systems and beneficiaries.

State and Local Government Workforce: 2012 Trends

Source: Center for State and Local Government Excellence, April 2012

From the press release:
A new survey by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence finds that more than half of state and local governments still have a pay freeze and are adjusting retirement and health care benefits. At the same time, the pace of layoffs has slowed with 28 percent reporting layoffs this year compared with 40 percent last year.

State and Local Government Workforce: 2012 Trends is a follow-up to three previous studies that have looked at questions related to the size of the workforce, compensation and benefits, and employees’ plans for retirement.

The top workforce issue cited in 2012 is the public perception of government workers. Issues that continue to rank as most important are retaining staff for core services, addressing employee morale and workload problems, staff development, and reducing employee health care costs.

Workforce changes include:
– Employees accelerating their plans for retirement (22 percent)
– Workforce has shrunk since the 2008 economic downturn (68 percent)
– Pay freezes (51 percent)
– Hiring freezes (42 percent)
– Layoffs (28 percent)

In the area of health care:
– Shifted more health care costs to employees (51 percent, down from 72 percent last year)
– Shifted more health care costs to retirees (11 percent, down from 23 percent)
– Created wellness programs (26 percent, down from 33 percent)

In the area of pensions:
– Raised employee contributions to pension plans for current workers (24 percent, up from 22 percent last year)
– Increased employee contributions for new hires (27 percent, up from 23 percent last year)
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