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Old 01-26-2017, 01:05 AM
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ILLINOIS

http://www.sj-r.com/news/20170121/il...pension-reform

Quote:
Illinois Senate to try again on pension reform

Illinois lawmakers will be asked to again tackle cost-saving pension reforms as part of the "grand bargain" package of bills being negotiated in the Senate.

The new version takes a different approach to pension reform that advocates believe will allow it to withstand an inevitable court challenge.


However, an analysis of the bill prepared by a coalition of public employee unions disputes that idea and says the most recent reform plan is just as unconstitutional as a plan struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2015.

The analysis was distributed to state lawmakers.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has pushed for lawmakers to enact pension reforms even as payments to the five state-funded pension systems eat up more tax revenue each year. Required payments to the pensions systems will increase by $1 billion in next year's budget to about $8.8 billion. The state's pension debt has now climbed to $130 billion.

Under the latest plan, advanced by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, pension benefits would change, but workers would be given a choice, unlike the changes contained in the previous reform effort.

The plan applies to people hired into their jobs before Jan. 1, 2011, who are now members of a Tier 1 pension plan. Workers hired after that date have been enrolled in a Tier 2 plan that has lesser benefits.

The changes would cover Chicago teachers, downstate teachers, university employees and members of the General Assembly retirement system. They would not apply to judges or members of the State Employee Retirement System.

State workers were exempted because of court cases pending from the ongoing labor dispute between the state and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. Cullerton's office said judges were excluded because they serve terms of six to 10 years "and making future raises non-pensionable would need to wait for their new six-, eight- or 10-year term to begin."



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Old 01-26-2017, 01:05 AM
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MARIN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA

http://www.marinij.com/government-an...e-court-battle

Quote:
Marin pension reformers get extra muscle for Supreme Court battle

A San Francisco lawyer has agreed to file an amicus brief on behalf of Marin’s Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plans in a high-stakes appeal to the California Supreme Court affecting public pensions.

Karol Denniston, a partner in the firm of Squire, Patton and Boggs, said she will file a “friend of the court” brief in support of the Marin County Employees Retirement Association. Denniston will be doing the work pro bono, without pay.

In August, a state appeals court upheld the retirement association’s interpretation of new state laws aimed at eliminating “pension spiking.” The association had been sued by four labor organizations — the Marin Association of Public Employees, the Marin County Management Employees Association, Service Employees International Union 1021 and the Marin County Fire Department Firefighters’ Association.

Those same four labor organizations appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court, which has agreed to review it.

“Actually, Karol recruited us,” said Jody Morales of Lucas Valley, founder of Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plans.

“Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plans has a statewide reputation that is pretty incredible,” Morales said, “We’ve been called by people like Jack Dean, who writes the Pension Tsunami blog, the best organized pension reform group in California.”

Denniston said, “I’ve worked with a lot of taxpayer associations and pension reform organizations since probably 2010. This case is the first time that the California Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case where the breadth and depth of the ‘California rule’ is going to be considered.”

A state Supreme Court ruling more than two decades ago, dubbed the “California Rule,” decreed that the pension formulas of public workers could be increased but not decreased during their working years.

Denniston represented a group of taxpayers in the Stockton bankruptcy case. When the city of Stockton filed for bankruptcy in 2012, its biggest creditor was the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, to which it owed $900 million.

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Old 01-26-2017, 01:44 PM
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DALLAS POLICE AND FIRE

http://www.wfaa.com/news/no-deal-pen...ming/392676178

Quote:
No deal. Pension mediation talks break off; lawsuit looming

The Dallas City Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday laying the ground work for legal action against the failing Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund.

News 8 has learned that four city council members will likely file a lawsuit against the pension system contending, among other things, that it is violating its fiduciary duties by agreeing to release money held in high-interest savings accounts known as DROP.

“This is not a step that the four (council) pension trustees have taken lightly,” Council member Philip Kingston said during the council meeting. “There is a severe problem at the pension. We need the help of a court, I believe, in order to sort it out. The idea is not to damage the system, but to save it.”

Earlier this month, all four council members who sit on the board – Erik Wilson, Philip Kingston, Scott Griggs and Jennifer Gates --voted against the board’s plan that would create an orderly withdrawal process from what’s known as DROP – or Deferred Retirement Option Plan -- accounts. These are special high-interest savings accounts and a big reason the pension is going broke. The fund has a nearly $4 billion shortfall.

The resolution approved by the city council Wednesday encourages the council members who serve on the pension board to “take all available actions to address the system’s dire financial situation.” It authorizes paying any costs arising from “those actions.”

“We’re in uncharted waters right now,” Gates said, “and it’s really important to us for those that are putting ourselves out there as trustees for the pension that we have our support of our council and that if we find ourselves in legal issues that we are indemnified by the city.”

Armando Garza of the Dallas Hispanic Firefighters Association was critical of the prospect of the council board members filing a lawsuit.

“It brings up more questions and more turmoil and instability,” he said. “We need to be working together, not dividing on this issue.”

The looming legal action comes as city officials, pension officials and representatives of police and fire associations came together for marathon mediation sessions Monday and Tuesday. They were trying to come to an agreement on a plan to take to state legislators.


.....
In Kingston’s view, legal action is needed to give time to restructure the pension to save it and to stave off a looming liquidity crisis.

“There is every chance that unless we are able to liquidate illiquid assets at fire sale prices that we are looking at the possibility retirees not receiving their checks in a year or so and that’s a terrifying prospect,” Kingston said during the meeting.

Kingston pointed out that there are 1,300 retirees who live on less than $2,500 a month. He says the board’s plan to continue DROP withdrawals – “even on a limited basis mathematically shortens the period of time that we can pay benefits to some of our oldest and most vulnerable retirees.” He contends says violates the board’s fiduciary duty to treat all beneficiaries equitably.

If no changes are made to the pension, it could become insolvent in as soon as 2028. That would mean that it would not be able to pay benefits.

Tensions have continued to escalate after the city’s chief financial officer Elizabeth Reich presented a proposed plan last week that would set aside the failing retirement fund and create a new fund. The alternative would let many police and firefighters transfer over to the new city-run pension with reduced guaranteed benefits. The pension system would then be left with the job of figuring out how to pay the remaining money to the workers and retirees not covered by the new plan.

https://www.scribd.com/document/3375...-17#from_embed

Quote:
Dallas Police & Fire Pension System Statement in Response to Dallas City Council Resolution January 25, 2017
The city of Dallas has a long, expensive and unsuccessful track record of litigating disputes rather than working with others to resolve conflict. Even now, city officials are begging the Legislature for sovereign immunity to save the city from a potential $4 billion liability from back-pay lawsuits dating back to the 1990s. Most of the accusations in the City Council resolution are related to decisions and actions by a previous Dallas Police & Fire Pension System board (DPFP). Other than in recent history, Dallas City Council members on that board rarely, if ever, bothered to attend any meetings. The new DPFP leadership started in 2015 and has worked closely with city officials, members and the public (through the news media) to provide transparency into DPFP. The new DPFP leadership had been making real progress until Mayor Rawlings and other city officials helped create a panic in 2016 among police and fire retirees. The M
ayor’s
litigation and bankruptcy threats helped create a $500+ million run on the pension fund and led to mass retirements of senior police and firefighters. The Ma
yor’s December lawsuit against DPFP —
timed to occur when members were voting on significant cuts in benefits

played a large role in defeating the proposal for benefit reductions. That plan would have reduced
DPFP’s funding shortfall
significantly. Through its glitzy PR and marketing campaign, the city states its intention to provide a secure and stable
retirement for Dallas’ first responders. But the city’s latest proposal in the pension debate would strip
constitutionally protected benefits from all current retirees and most of the active Dallas police and firefighters. These dedicated first responders have devoted their lives to serve and protect Dallas residents, workers and visitors. Already underpaid in comparison to other cities in Texas, Dallas first responders have no social security and no safety net. And if the city gets its way, the majority of them will have no retirement

or one that only lasts for a few years.
Under the city’s plan
presented on January 18, Dallas first responders become a cost-reduction target. The city's new contribution rate would be significantly less than any other major city in Texas and approximately half its current contribution. Meanwhile, the city proposes that Dallas police and firefighter contributions increase 55 percent over the current rate, resulting in employee contributions higher than nearly any other major city in Texas.
The city’s proposal clearly fails the Legislature’s goal of “shared sacrifice” by placing the bulk of the
burden on the backs of police and firefighters. Under this proposal, nearly 7,300 pension members would be stranded in a pension plan abandoned by the city. Based on the City Council resolution
from today’s meeting
, it appears that the city will continue to litigate to try to get its way. Efforts by the new pension board and the city to present a unified bill to
state legislators have all but collapsed as a result of the city’s resolution.
But the Dallas Police & Fire Pension System cannot support any plan that leaves a single retiree or future retiree without a retirement. We will continue to work with Texas legislators on an equitable and legal solution that provides a secure and stable retirement for Dallas' first responders.
http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/ne...n-plan-if.html

Quote:
Dallas could scrap troubled pension plan if legislation fails

Dallas city officials and representatives of the troubled police and fire fighter pension have been meeting in 12- to 14-hour long sessions this week to fix a multi-billion-dollar funding gap that could threaten the city’s finances and economy.

The two sides have been consulting with a mediator in recent days to resolve their issues and present a unified proposal to the state legislature in the coming weeks. The talks between officials who have spent the past several months mired in dysfunction are still very much up in the air with no guarantee of an agreement.

At issue is whether certain fixes to the pension’s finances should be tied to a legal change the city is pushing. That would relieve Dallas of liability for a $4 billion lawsuit over emergency worker back pay.

The lawsuit and the pension system’s $3.3 billion in unfunded liabilities could throw the city into bankruptcy, jeopardizing the booming local economy.

“The city has taken the opportunity to tie the two together,” Dallas Police and Fire Pension Executive Director Kelly Gottschalk said in an interview Monday morning. “It’s attractive to the state legislature to kind of make this Dallas issue too big to fail.”

The city wants to put the current pension system into receivership if the legislation package fails, but pension officials have refused, Gottschalk said.

.....
Legislation on the "fast-track"

Ted Lyon, a former Texas state senator and now a lawyer representing emergency workers in the back-pay lawsuit said he doesn’t believe the state legislature would approve a measure that would wipe out the city’s liability.

He suggested such a move could violate their constitutional protections.

“I have serious concerns over whether or not they can legally do that,” Lyon said.

In addition to the lawsuit problem, there are lingering disagreements on the part of the proposal that would fix the pension’s issues.

Pension officials have included a provision in their version of the bill to claw back interest from retirees in order to fill the funding gap.

The city wants this “equity adjustment,” but pension officials believe it’s illegal and don’t support it.

But by including it in the proposal, Gottschalk said the process would be sped up, and that provisions would ultimately be left up to a court to decide.

Any legislation once submitted is expected to be put on a “fast-track” in Austin.

The point man is potential House Pension Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van Zandt), who has criticized Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ handling of the pension situation.

The pension and the city have presented draft bills to Flynn, Gottschalk said.

A spokesperson for Flynn’s office said they could not confirm whether a low bill number has been reserved, which would put a proposed fix near the front of the line for consideration once it’s ready.

Democratic Sen. Royce West of Dallas is expected to run the legislation on the state senate side.

It’s unclear, however, how a legislation package including both the pension fixes and the so-called “sovereign immunity” change wiping away the back-pay lawsuits could be bridged between the two chambers.

Proposal to replace plan

Dallas Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich unveiled a proposal at a city council meeting last week that would replace the existing pension plan with a new one that provides traditional benefits to younger officers who transfer over, plus a 401(k) and some matching contributions from the city.

According to new analysis provided by the pension board this week, such a plan could cut off benefits from as many as 6,900 current pension members once the money under the old plan runs out. Reich has said it is up to the pension to sort out how to close the old plan under the proposal, but Gottschalk said she does not know how they could carry that out.

Credit raters already have downgraded the city’s debt several times and have warned about complications once state lawmakers propose changes to a bill – however carefully crafted between local officials. Moody’s has the city on alert for another potential downgrade.

In the near term, the pension board approved a plan earlier in the month that would once again allow members to take lump-sum payments restricted above a minimum reserve held by the system. These withdrawals into an interest-bearing account were blocked after a run on the pension last year.

Rawlings has threatened to block lump-sum distributions in court once they are paid out under the new plan in March, about the time when the state legislature could be taking up a proposal to fix the issue if one is ever agreed to.
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  #144  
Old 01-26-2017, 01:45 PM
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CALIFORNIA
CRIMINAL RETIREE

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/c...te-public.html

Quote:
Bustamante wants pension paid in full

Carlos Bustamante, a former Santa Ana city councilman and county Public Works administrator, is a convicted sex offender. He pleaded guilty in December 2015 to, according to the Register, “three felony counts, one for attempted sexual battery, another for stalking and a third for grand theft after seven female subordinates at his county job accused him of making unwanted sexual advances.”

He received a sentence of “a year in jail and five years of formal probation and [was] ordered to register as a sex offender for life” — though he ended up serving only about six months in a private city jail.

But a move by the Orange County Employees Retirement System last year to cut his pensions by about $1,500 a month to $3,098 (and repay $23,855) has got Bustamante crying foul. He thinks it is unfair and is suing. What seems more unfair is that the taxpayer has to cover any of his pension, and that he might have a chance at recovering all of it.

That’s because of the ironclad view the state courts, at least until fairly recently, have taken when it comes to public employee pensions. The rule OCERS used to slash his pension only came into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 as part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Public Employees Pension Reform Act. Bustamante resigned from his job in 2011 and was arrested in 2012. His lawyer argues that the rule cannot be retroactively applied to his pension. OCERS’ legal counsel has pointed to his 2015 conviction date in their belief that he is fair game.

The fact this discussion will even need to play out in the courts is disturbing and most alarming is that the rule only came into effect in 2013 — a rule Supervisor Todd Spitzer has called “the Mike Carona statute” after disgraced former Sheriff Mike Carona, who went to federal prison for felony witness tampering and received, last we checked, about $195,120 annually.

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Old 01-26-2017, 01:46 PM
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JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA

http://jacksonville.com/news/2017-01...y-camera-rules

Quote:
City offers pension concessions; police union wants body-camera rules

Hoping to build toward quickly closing out high-stakes pension negotiations, City Hall officials on Wednesday offered public safety union leaders a modified 401(k)-style option for future hires that would include a guaranteed lifetime payout.

On the union side of the table, the Fraternal Order of Police said it wants to make rules surrounding the use of body cameras a mandatory part of this round of collective bargaining as the Sheriff’s Office moves closer to a pilot project for body cameras in the spring.

While much remained unresolved after sessions with the firefighters union and police union, a top administrator for Mayor Lenny Curry flatly said it’s pointless for union leaders to keep raising the possibility of the city joining the Florida Retirement System so future hires can get pensions through the state.

“I hope this is the last time I have to say it: We are rejecting FRS,” Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said.

Steve Zona, president of the local FOP chapter, responded he cannot understand why FRS is “good enough for bus drivers” but somehow off the table for future police and firefighters in Jacksonville.

The session ended with Zona drawing his own line in the sand. He said the union rejects the offer Curry made two weeks ago for future hires to go into 401(k)-style retirement accounts. But Zona said the union will take a hard look at a new proposal made Wednesday that would have offer a blend of benefits found in traditional pensions and 401(k)s.

.....
The latest retirement-benefits offer from the city would allow future hires to use a portion of their 401(k) contributions — 8 percent from employees, with a large 25 percent match from the city — to purchase an annuity when they start employment. That could offer future employees a safety net of sorts if their 401(k) accounts take hits in the stock market down the road because annuities can lock in guaranteed annual retirement payments.

From the city’s perspective, the advantage of the hybrid plan is that in comparison to traditional pensions, the city would not be on the hook to pay ever-increasing amount to fulfill pension obligations if investment returns fall short of projections. The city would contract with an insurance company that would handle the annuities.

“The risk is on the insurance company,” said Mike Weinstein, director of finance for the city. “It’s not on the city. It’s not on the employees.”

He said annuities and pensions both provide guaranteed lifetime benefits for employees and their spouses in retirement. The amount paid by annuities is calculated differently from the formula for pensions, but the overall concept is “mostly the same,” Weinstein said.
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Old 01-27-2017, 06:37 PM
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https://protectpensions.org/2017/01/...ver-recession/

Quote:
PUBLIC PENSION FUNDS CONTINUE TO RECOVER FROM THE RECESSION
January 26, 2017

It’s well-known that public pension funds took a major hit during the financial crisis. We’ve written before about the steep drop in funding levels from 2008 – 2009 when the economy was crashing due to Wall Street greed and incompetence. The story that’s less well-known is that the majority of public pension funds continue to recover from the depths of the recession, as a recent report from the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) details.

NCPERS is a trade association of public pension plan administrators, trustees, and investment professionals. These are the folks who actually manage public pension funds and administer benefits to retirees. Each year NCPERS surveys its members about various aspects of public pension plans from funding level to investment performance to cost effectiveness. The recently released 2016 survey documents healthy pension funds that provide a secure retirement to firefighters, teachers, librarians, and other public employees.

When it comes to funding status, a key metric for lawmakers and the general public, pension funds continue to improve each year. The average funded level of the surveyed plans has increased from 71.5 percent in 2014 to 74.1 percent in 2015 to 76.2 percent in 2016. These plans have managed to improve their funded status each year, despite an investment environment that remains challenging.

Speaking of investing, public pension funds continue to earn strong returns. According to the NCPERS survey, when looking at returns from the past 3 years (8.6%), 5 years (8.3%), and 20 years (7.9%), the pension funds have achieved returns close to or exceeding 8 percent. When looking at the past 10 years, the investment rate of return was 6.2 percent, but that 10 year period includes the recession. While funds continue to achieve these strong rates of return, many are lowering their actuarial assumed rate of return to account for continued weakness in the market.

Finally, public pensions continue to be a cost-effective way to provide retirement security to millions of hard-working public employees. Pension funds have lowered their costs for administering their funds and paying investment managers. Not only have they lowered their own costs compared to previous years, but their costs are significantly lower than most mutual funds.

This report is confirmation of what we already know: public pensions work. They are a cost-effective way to provide retirement security to working families. While pension funds did take a hit during the recession, they continue to recover each year through smart investing and cost-cutting measures.
https://burypensions.wordpress.com/2...ion-coalition/

Quote:
NCPERS has a similar agenda and funding source to NPPC and the report mentioned includes this explanation of their methodology:
Quote:
For the 2016 study, 159 respondents provided feedback to NCPERS using the most recently available data. Of the 159 respondents, 71 also responded to the 2015 study.
Yes, they sent out questionnaires. Did New Jersey respond….or even get one? And the questions ranged from the ‘what are you doing right’ variety:



to a grudging acknowledgement that unfunded liabilities might exist (followed quickly by the fluff):


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Old 01-29-2017, 07:52 PM
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CALIFORNIA
CALPERS
ASSET MANAGEMENT

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/artic...sion-cuts-fees

Quote:
Calpers May Move Up to $30 Billion In-House as Pension Cuts Fees

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. pension, is developing plans to shift as much as $30 billion from external to internal managers as it seeks to reduce fees.

The $306 billion system now oversees about 70 percent of its assets internally, most in stocks and bonds, a share that can increase as Calpers develops capacity to handle private equity, real estate and infrastructure, according to Chief Investment Officer Ted Eliopoulos.

“I think 75, maybe 80 percent” is the long-term goal, Eliopoulos said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Sacramento. “It’s a big deal.”

The shift would cut fees paid by the system as it reduces the outlook for investing returns amid low interest rates and slow economic growth. The Calpers board voted last month to decrease its assumed long-term annual rate of return to 7 percent from 7.5 percent. Over the next 10 years, it may average gains of 6.2 percent, according to Wilshire Associates, an outside consultant.
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Old 01-29-2017, 10:06 PM
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DIVESTMENT

NEW YORK

http://www.satprnews.com/2017/01/24/...bon-footprint/

Quote:
New York Pension Fund joins multi-billion-dollar international investors to reduce carbon footprint
New York Pension Fund joins multi-billion-dollar international investors to reduce carbon footprint Tue, Jan 24, 2017

Fund joins a coalition of 28 international investors controlling over $3 trillion in assets

New York Pension Fund joins multi-billion-dollar international investors to reduce carbon footprint

January 24, 2017 – In the latest demonstration of institutional asset owners’ commitment to climate action, New York State Common Retirement Fund (CRF), the third largest public pension fund in the US with $184.5 billion in assets, has joined the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition (PDC).

The CRF is the first major US pension fund to join the Coalition’s 28 members, who between them control over $3 trillion in assets and have pledged to gradually decarbonize a total of $600 billion by designing investment portfolios with a smaller climate change impact.

One year ago, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, trustee of the CRF, announced plans at the Paris climate talks to position the Fund for a low carbon future. In partnership with Goldman Sachs, the CRF developed a low emission index, which steers assets away from large carbon emitters and increases investments in carbon-efficient companies.

„Climate change is one of the greatest risks to our pension fund’s portfolio,” DiNapoli said. „We’re reviewing and adjusting our investments to reduce that risk and take advantage of the growing opportunities of a lower carbon future. Investors are playing a key role in fostering a cleaner global economy. The PDC gives us the opportunity not only to highlight our own activities in this regard, but also to share insights and challenges with counterparts around the world.”

„Investments with more carbon translate to higher risk, not just from potential carbon fees or pricing, but also from shifts in technology that can leave high carbon assets stranded,” said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment. UN Environment’s Finance Initiative is a co-founder of the PDC.
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Old 01-29-2017, 10:08 PM
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OKLAHOMA
RETIREMENT AGE

http://www.news9.com/story/34292246/...e-for-teachers

Quote:
Enlarge1 / 1
OKLAHOMA CITY - One state representative wants to increase the retirement age for teachers by two years. He says it would save the state money. But the teachers union says it would cost the state teachers.
State lawmakers will start the legislative session next month about $900-million in the hole while working to give teachers a raise. Oklahoma teachers are among the lowest paid in the country.

Representative Randy McDaniel (R) Edmond says one long-term solution is to increase the retirement age for newly hired teachers from 65-years old to 67.

"We increased the retirement age five years ago and it made a big difference,” said McDaniel. “It saved us over a billion dollars. In that case, we increased it a little bit more. So, we're still expecting hundreds of millions of dollars worth of savings."

Hundreds of millions of dollars, McDaniel says, that could be used to fund teacher raises while stabilizing the cost of pensions and healthcare for retired teachers.

"Make those more predictable. Make those containable. That way we can free up extra resources so we can pay not only meet the national average but exceed it in many cases. That's my goal. I want to pay people better. And I think this is a way we can do it,” continued McDaniel.

Opponents say the measure would only force more teachers from Oklahoma.

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Old 01-29-2017, 10:09 PM
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TAIWAN
TEACHERS
RETIREMENT AGE

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aedu/201701220014.aspx

Quote:
Teacher retirement age to be raised to 60: Education Ministry

Taipei, Jan. 22 (CNA) A pension reform proposal to raise the age of retirement for K12 teachers to 60 and that for non-teaching staff to 65 incorporate different perspectives on retirement age, the Ministry of Education said in a statement on Sunday.

The ministry was responding to opinions that K12 teachers' age of retirement should be either as late as 65 or as early as 55.

The reform proposal for Taiwan's pension system was drafted by the Pension Reform Committee under the Presidential Office.

Under the proposal, teachers' age of retirement will be 60 in 2028, after a 10-year transition from the current "75 retirement index," which is a formula based on a minimum retirement age of about 50 and 25 years of service, said the ministry.

Critics also said the reform proposal says nothing about teachers in private schools, and pointed out the big gap in the income replacement rates between that of public school employees and that of private ones.

Teachers at private colleges and universities account for about 60 percent of all the teaching staff in higher education, but the income replacement rate of their pensions is less than 30 percent, much lower than their counterparts in public institutions, according to Lin Po-yi (林伯儀), head of Taiwan Higher Education Union's organization department.
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