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  #501  
Old 04-05-2017, 09:02 PM
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TEXAS

http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/...n-11050536.php

Quote:
Let’s have a debate on Texas public pension plans

Governmental pension plans across America are in doubt due to their over-reliance on defined benefits that promise higher rates of return than can be gotten in today’s very low interest rate economy. Municipal pension plans such as the city of Dallas’ are in crisis already, and serious debate is under way on pension reform in the state of Texas.
I filed several pension reform bills, including Senate Bill 151 to require a public vote on pension bonds voted out of the Texas Senate; Senate Bill 1750 to direct the Pension Review Board to study the issue; and Senate Bill 1751 that would open up the possibility of an “alternative retirement plan” to new Employee Retirement System (ERS) and Teacher Retirement System (TRS) hires in Texas.
A recent commentary in the San Antonio Express-News by Greg Knowlton tries to impugn SB 1751’s public policy, but first let’s try to have a civil discourse over the future of Texas public pension plans.
His commentary does not specify that these bills apply to new hires only, not existing members of the two pension plans.
Also, a developing Texas problem is that neither the ERS or TRS pension plan is meeting the yearly guaranteed rate of return. That causes the plans to generate billions of dollars of unfunded liabilities to the state. In fact, in a Finance Committee hearing, the director of ERS admitted they haven’t met their average return target percentage in over 10 years!

ERS has averaged just a 5.83 percent return, not 8 percent, for over a decade, and the ERS Fund’s total unfunded actuarial accrued liability is $8.746 billion.
Therefore, if the estimated rate of return was dropped to 6 percent, much more in line with what is happening to investments all across America, then, according to public testimony, the ERS unfunded pension liability would balloon to $15 billion to $16 billion! This is an alarming problem for Texas taxpayers.
The much larger TRS plan has a total unfunded actuarial accrued liability of $35.453 billion as of Aug. 31, 2016.
Thus, SB 1751, if passed, would give two large retirement systems of Texas the option to create an “alternative retirement plan” for new employees. This plan, by definition, means a defined contribution plan or a hybrid retirement plan. This plan would only apply to new hires, not to those already in the system. By the way, the county retirement plan in use is one example of a hybrid.
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Old 04-05-2017, 09:08 PM
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CalSTRS
CALIFORNIA

http://www.ai-cio.com/channel/ASSET-...t-Social-Bond/

Quote:
CalSTRS Buys First Social Bond
$5 million investment will finance women-owned enterprises and projects for low-income communities.
The $202 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) has announced its first social bond purchase, a $5 million investment that will finance women-owned enterprises and projects for low-income communities in emerging markets.

CalSTRS is one of more than 40 institutional investors to buy into a three-year, $500 million global benchmark bond issued on March 22 by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank. The $500 million bond issuance has a maturity date of March 30, 2020, and was issued at a price of 99.942% and carries a coupon of 1.75%.

Proceeds from the bond will be invested in companies that source directly from smallholder farmers; utilities that provide low-income households with better access to services; companies that provide more affordable health and education services or housing to low-income populations; and in companies that provide goods and services to low-income populations, according to a statement from CalSTRS.

The bonds will also help companies that provide telecommunication and payment platforms in markets that include low-income users, and will assist lending to financial intermediaries that lend to women-owned enterprises.

.....
IFC said it created its Social Bond Program “to meet investor demand for regular benchmark issuance by merging two existing socially responsible bond products.” This included the Banking on Women Bond Program and the Inclusive Business Bond Program. Those two programs so far have raised $268 million and $296 million respectively since 2013.

CalSTRS made the investment as part of its sustainability effort. In its CalSTRS 2014–15 Sustainability Report: Fostering a Secure Future report, the fund said “sustainability is far more than an environmental concern. It also encompasses current and future economic and social issues.”

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Old 04-07-2017, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by campbell View Post
NEW JERSEY

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/1...9151-398618645



This is a dumb idea.

The lottery cash is already being used for something. Moving that cash to the pensions means they have to decide to cut something else. Which they would have to do if they simply said "we're putting more cash in the pensions".

Jeez.
This is still a dumb idea.

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf...y_could_h.html

Quote:
Proposal to boost N.J. pensions with lottery could happen this year, treasurer says

The state treasurer said Thursday that Gov. Chris Christie's proposal to use lottery ticket proceeds to bolster the government worker pension fund could be finalized by the June 30 end of the fiscal year.

Christie floated the somewhat opaque proposal to transfer assets from the lottery to the pension fund in his February budget address. His administration hasn't released any additional details since, including what would happen to the programs currently funded by the lottery.

"When can we expect a detailed proposal on this lottery concept? Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, asked the treasurer as a budget hearing Thursday. "Don't tell us June 30. We're all intrigued by it. Why wait?"

Treasurer Ford Scudder assured Sarlo more information would be made available in the near future.

Roughly, Christie wants to pledge the lottery as an asset to the pension fund, dramatically reducing its unfunded liabilities, which currently sit at about $49 billion for the state, or $66 billion if local government debts are included as well.

Christie has said the shift would immediately reduce the unfunded liabilities by $13 billion. The treasurer's office has issued a request for proposals for a valuation of the lottery system, which generates about $1 billion a year.
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  #504  
Old 04-07-2017, 05:32 PM
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NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

(and 80 percent fundedness)

http://www.newportthisweek.com/news/...Condition.html

Quote:
Pension Plan in ‘Critical Condition’
By Tom Walsh
Newport’s fire and police department pension plans both remain underfunded, with the fire department’s plan considered to be in “critical condition,” according to state guidelines.

Newport’s firefighter plan is now reportedly funded at approximately 49 percent, while the police plan is at just more than 64 percent. The Rhode Island General Assembly enacted legislation that defined any pension plan funded at less than 60 percent as being in “critical condition.” The state now defines a “healthy” pension plan as one that is 80 percent funded.

Mayor Harry Winthrop said the city is on a payment plan that will contribute to the pensions each year until they are fully funded.

“By and large, the city has recognized the liability we have and is doing something about it,” he said.

The trust fund that the city contributes to each year could eventually play a larger role with pensions, Winthrop said.

Laura L. Sitrin, the city’s director of finance, said the city is on a path to satisfy the state’s "healthy" definition by 2023. “At any given time, actual results may vary from the assumptions that were used,” she said. “It definitely requires that someone pay close attention, making sure that current things are being done to make the pension plans healthy.”

Newport will pay more than $16 million in the current fiscal year to cover its pension contributions for more than 500 police, firefighters, municipal and school department retirees.

The city’s pension contributions for the 2016-17 fiscal year will total $16,442,932, according to Sitrin. Although employee salaries and other benefits always represent the most substantial budget line item, city and school pensions now consume approximately 12.7 percent of annual spending, Sitrin said.

“We’re very cautious and very conservative,” she said, describing her philosophy for guiding the city through these often-tricky matters.

That philosophy explains a recent decision by the city to trim its assumed rate of return from 7.50 to 7.25 percent on investments that support pension funds. When the rate of return is lowered, it increases the city’s pension costs.

.....
Newport’s employee pension program dates back to the 1940s. Currently, the city owns and manages two single-employer defined pension plans for police and fire. All active and retired firefighters take part in the fire pension plan. Active and retired police employees take part in the police pension plan, except those who were hired after January 1, 2015 who receive pensions through the State of Rhode Island Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS).

All other employees except teachers participate in the “agent multiple-employer defined benefit MERS plan.” Teachers participate in the Rhode Island Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Plan and the Teachers’ Survivors Benefit Plan, which provides a survivor benefit to public school teachers as an alternative to Social Security.

Teachers, police officers and firefighters do not take part in Social Security. Newport employees may participate in voluntary 401K plans. The city and the school department do not contribute to those plans.

Recipients contribute to their pensions while they are working. Teachers contribute 10.75 percent of their salaries, while police officers and firefighters contribute eight and nine percent, respectively.

As of July 1, 2015, there were 125 police pensioners, 116 fire department pensioners, and 253 MERS pensioners.
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  #505  
Old 04-07-2017, 05:41 PM
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Two pieces from same authors on same thing:

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/g...efits-san.html

Quote:
A proposal that would make pension crisis even worse

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System recently voted to cut benefits for nearly 200 retirees after the East San Gabriel Valley Human Services Consortium — which includes the cities of West Covina, Covina, Azusa and Glendora — failed to properly fund its pension plan for an agency known as LA Works.

It’s just the latest example of the unfunded public pension crisis hitting parts of California.

CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the country, also recently lowered its target investment rate of return, tacitly acknowledging that the state has been too aggressive with its expectations on investment returns. As a result, local governments will have to increase their own contributions — both to make up for the previous use of an excessive assumed rate of return and in anticipation of lower returns in the future.

Continuing to provide the same pension plans “imposes greater costs on local and state government,” Gov. Jerry Brown recently told Bloomberg. “The pensions are squeezing local government more than state government.”

Brown also predicted CalPERS will have to lower its expected investment return rates even further, causing the financial pressure to “mount” on cash-strapped local governments.

Nonetheless, a new report by the well-regarded Haas Institute at the University of California at Berkeley claims the public pension crisis is exaggerated.

The Haas report claims public pensions are only considered in trouble because of unnecessary accounting standards about how to report degrees of risk. If only states like California were to adopt Social Security-style, pay-as-you-go approaches to funding benefits, the logic goes, then there would be no perception of crisis.

This proposal runs counter to how public pension plans are supposed to operate. The accounting rules governing pension systems like CalPERS require “prefunding” — setting aside a specific amount of money each year to be combined with investment returns so that on the day a worker retires, there is enough available to provide the promised retirement benefits.

Pre-funding pensions aims to avoid asking future taxpayers to cover the retirement costs for today’s workers, since future generations do not directly benefit from the public services delivered by current workers.

By contrast, shifting to a “PAYGO” model would enshrine an intergenerational equity problem. Politicians today would negotiate pay rates and benefits for today’s public sector employees, but lean on voiceless future employees and taxpayers to pay for most of the costs.

This kind of solution — reduce payments today and increase them tomorrow — is exactly the kind of thinking that got CalPERS and many other public pension plans into trouble in the first place.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspi.../#3fb4f01cb7d5

Quote:
Retirement Security Requires Fully Funding Public Pension Plans

Anthony Randazzo and Leonard Gilroy
Anthony Randazzo and Leonard Gilroy are managing directors of Reason Foundation’s Pension Integrity Project (www.reason.org).

Public employee pension plans around the country are facing a shortfall of at least $1 trillion, and some of the largest plans are beginning to radically cut promised benefits because they have not stashed away enough to meet their obligations. The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) recently announced that it would be cutting benefits for retirees whose municipal employers had not funded their benefits, while pension plans in New Jersey and Dallas are expected to run out of money within the next decade.

Despite such warnings for governments not fully funding their pension plans, a new proposal by a university think tank would make the problem infinitely worse by recommending a costly new financing method that'll jeopardize workers’ retirement security and push today’s costs onto future generations.

.....
The core proposal from the Haas Institute is that governments should abandon the accounting rules for defined benefit plans that require “pre-funding” — i.e., a practice of setting aside enough money each year that, when combined with investments returns, will be enough to provide annuitized retirement benefits for a worker on the day that they retire. Instead it is proposed that governments adopt the Social Security-style, pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) approach to funding state and local worker retirement benefits.

This approach runs counter to how public pension systems are intended to function.

Pensions are not designed to function as PAYGO, Ponzi-like operations where the contributions made by current employees are used to cover the benefits earned by retirees. The pre-funded accounting concept is supposed to avoid asking future generations to pay for the deferred compensation of workers that deliver public services enjoyed by the current generation—and avoid harm to the cause of intergenerational equity.

While it’s true that the pre-funded accounting design has been perverted over the last two decades by the proliferation of unfunded pension liabilities, this is primarily because pension boards failed to adjust their actuarial assumptions to reflect a lower-yield investment environment. The accounting methods underlying modern pension finance are nonetheless still rooted in a foundational principle that today’s taxpayers and workers should collectively share the full costs—including retirement benefits—associated with providing the government services enjoyed by citizens today.

By contrast, PAYGO forces future generations to pay for today’s workers, creating an intergenerational equity problem. Today’s politicians decide on the pay and benefits they want to provide today’s public workers, but then require future taxpayers—who have no voice in the matter and do not benefit from the delivery of those services—to pay for part of that compensation package.

Similarly, pension plans that do not strive to achieve 100% funded status in the near-term are effectively embracing a PAYGO-lite funding approach, where benefits earned today are partially paid for with current tax dollars and partially debt financed through future taxpayer dollars covering any shortfalls in what is necessary to pay benefits (known as unfunded liability amortization payments).

To make matters worse for struggling municipal governments, PAYGO is a more expensive approach to providing retirement benefits than pre-funded defined benefit pensions or defined contribution retirement plans. Since PAYGO does not focus on making contributions to a fund targeting a certain investment return over time—ensuring sufficient assets available to fund promised future pension benefits—more taxpayer contributions would be needed now and in the future since to make up for the missing investment returns.

Particularly galling is that paying for retirement benefits as costs come along with future tax dollars is simply disrespecting the promises made to generations of public workers. When the next recession comes or the next budget deficit hits, politicians will inevitably prioritize spending money on providing current services rather than continuing to pay for services rendered years ago, thus subjecting retiree benefit payments to the whims of politicians with short-term economic incentives.

Ultimately, if a state wanted to create a new plan for future workers funded on a PAYGO basis, then it can do so — though taxpayers should know explicitly what they are getting into. But state and local governments faced with large unfunded liabilities on their current pension plans should not try to get out of their mess by embracing intergenerational inequity and just kicking the costs down the road. They should honestly account for the traditional pension plans and ensure they are fully funded.

None of this is to say that there are not legitimate gripes with current pension funding policy and practice—we have many. But it would be far better for public workers and retirees to reform debt-ridden pension systems to put them on track to reach full funding than to surrender and jeopardize retirement security by subjecting worker benefits to the whims of limited-vision politicians in the sausage-making of government budgets.

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  #506  
Old 04-07-2017, 05:42 PM
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CONNECTICUT

https://ctmirror.org/2017/04/05/wall...years-to-come/

Quote:
Wall Street agency warns CT budgets will be bleak for years

A major Wall Street credit rating agency warned investors Wednesday that Connecticut’s weak economy and surging retirement benefit costs are likely to plague state budgets and test the state’s fiscal management for several years to come.

The latest issue paper from Moody’s Investors Service — part of a growing trend of Wall Street commentary on Connecticut’s troubled finances — also warns that while proposals to shift costs from the state to municipalities could help the state’s credit rating, it could hinder that of the cities and towns that would share in these expenses.

“Connecticut’s fixed costs command roughly 30 percent of the state’s $18.9 billion non-federal governmental revenues (next fiscal year,) which is the highest percentage of all 50 states,” Marcia Van Wagner, a vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s, said Wednesday.

Those costs, led by some of the most poorly funded public-sector pension and retiree health care programs in the nation, are expected to consume nearly 35 percent of General Fund revenues by 2018-19, the report states.

And while Moody’s describes Connecticut’s high wealth as a “paramount credit strength,” the state’s economy “has entered a ‘new normal’ with employment still below pre-financial crisis levels and income growth lagging the nation’s.”

Connecticut’s financial services sector has lost 11 percent of its jobs since 2007 “and the non-financial sectors have failed to compensate, with manufacturing in decline and lackluster growth in the service sector,” Van Wagner said.

The lackluster economic growth has been hampered further by population loss, Moody’s wrote. Connecticut is one of just four states to lose population every year since 2013.

The state’s poorly funded pension for municipal teachers and pension and retiree health care programs for state employees reflect insufficient savings patterns that date back to 1939.

The required annual contribution to the teachers’ pension fund alone, which already represents $1 billion in a nearly $18 billion General Fund, will grow an average of more than 16 percent per year during the next biennial budget.

And a 2015 study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, warned that required annual payments could surge by more than 500 percent, topping $6.2 billion in the 2031-32 fiscal year.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal calls for cities and towns to assume one-third of that skyrocketing teachers’ pension cost — something municipal officials say would amount to an unprecedented cost-shift onto an already highly regressive property tax base in Connecticut.

Local officials argue this is unfair since roughly 80 percent of the teachers’ pension contribution reflects the cost of correcting fiscal mistakes made by past governors and legislstures — and not the funds needed to cover the future retirement benefits of present-day teachers.

For example, Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser projected his community would have to dedicate between 11 and 12 percent of its budget revenue toward covering this pension bill by the early 2030s.


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Old 04-07-2017, 05:47 PM
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MASSACHUSETTS
MBTA

http://pioneerinstitute.org/better_g...s-liabilities/

Quote:
Study: Evidence Suggests MBTA Pension Low-Balled Costs And Liabilities
April 5, 2017
Written by Editorial Staff

Quarter-century of data shows costs at up to six times valuation assumptions, suggests MBTARF financial picture was made to appear artificially rosy

BOSTON – Data from valuation reports and other financial documents suggest that suspect actuarial practices may have helped misstate the real costs of MBTA Retirement Fund (MBTARF) pensions, compounding to an estimated $200 million of underfunding over a period of 25 years from administrative expenses alone, according to a new study by Pioneer Institute.

.....
Pioneer’s analysis of hundreds of pages of financial reports revealed a slew of tactics that could have made the MBTARF’s financial picture appear artificially rosy. These financial sleights of hand included obviously wrong assumptions about administrative costs; using dated and/or inappropriate mortality tables; and increasing the assumed rate of return (ARR) on investments at a time when other public pensions were doing the opposite.

A rosy view of the MBTARF’s financial condition enabled the MBTA to offer its employees pension enhancements in lieu of pay raises, thereby putting even more pressure on fund finances. Nevertheless, Buck Consultants, the fund’s actuary, somehow found that the “normal cost” of covering MBTARF pension benefits fell from more than 12 percent of covered payroll in 1991 to less than 9 percent in 2014.

“The estimates of normal cost defy credulity because the total pension liability grew at an annual rate 75 percent faster than payroll from 1993 to 2012,” said Dr. Iliya Atanasov, author of “Forensic Mysteries from the MBTA Retirement Fund’s Actuarial Reports.”

.....\Over the years, dated mortality tables were frequently used to calculate pension costs and liabilities. Even when the longevity assumptions were updated, it was often not to the latest standards recommended by professional organizations. The use of more current mortality tables would have likely produced a higher ARC, since they tend to include better life expectancies in retirement.

MBTARF valuation data indicate that gender-appropriate mortality tables were not used until 2010. Instead, male tables were applied for all active members, even though women accounted for 20 percent of plan membership as early as 1991. The use of male-only mortality tables may have artificially suppressed pension costs, since men tend to have a shorter life expectancy than women.

Even when mortality tables were finally updated, the MBTARF twice offset the possible liability increases, and potentially a higher ARC, by raising the fund’s assumed rate of return on investments. The retirement board also fiddled regularly with its methods of booking investment gains and losses.

Despite that annual contributions more than tripled from 2000 to 2014, the unfunded liability continued to rise, increasing tenfold from $82 million to $816 million in the decade through 2014.

Downloaded the paper

Here's the bit on the mortality table:
Quote:
For the 1991 valuation, the actuary still used the 1963 George B. Buck Mortality Table for non-disability retirements — Buck Consultants’ proprietary standard. The valuation report is mute on any adjustments that may have been applied to the original 1963 mortality table.

The 1992 valuation switched to the 1989 Buck Mortality Table set forward one year for retirements prior to 1993. Since mortality rates have been declining for most of the past century, updating the mortality table typically increases the associated liability because of longer lives in retirement. However, the assumed rate of return (ARR) on the plan’s assets was simultaneously increased from 7 to 7.25 percent, a move which would have worked to help offset an increased ARC due to any improved mortality assumptions. A higher ARR means smaller initial contributions are needed to meet long-term pension obligations.

The 1989 Buck Mortality Table remained in place at the MBTARF for 18 years. Buck actuaries continued using dated mortality tables despite the fact that both PERAC and the professional guilds unequivocally encouraged implementation of the most recent benchmarks. When the MBTARF actuary would finally update mortality assumptions, it often happened on the basis of already obsolete standards.

In the 2010 MBTARF valuation, the 1989 Buck table was replaced with a more general standard—the UP-1994 Mortality Table for males projected 10 years from the valuation date using Scale AA.14 This update was followed the next year by a hike in the ARR from 7.5 to 8 percent, which helped keep the ARC around 21 percent of payroll. By that time, PERAC had long adopted the RP-2000 Mortality Table (the US standard that superseded UP-1994) for the other 105 public retirement systems in Massachusetts.

The befuddling practice of sticking to old standards without clear justification persisted with the 2010-2014 experience study, which recommended replacing UP-1994 with RP-2000 even though the new RP-2014 Mortality Table was available by the time the study was issued in February 2016. Available primary documents do not provide any explanation for the MBTARF’s choosing RP-2000 over the RP-2014 standard that had already superseded it.

In contrast, PERAC explained that it chose to stick with the RP-2000 for its valuation of the MSERS because “the final [RP-2014] table did not include any experience related to public plans [and] does not match [MSERS] experience.” PERAC did implement RP-2014 for its 2015 valuation of the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System.

......
There were 695 actual male and 470 female deaths in the 2010-2014 experience study of the MBTARF.19 The experience study and the 24 valuation studies did not directly establish any clear rationale for not using the widely accepted RP-2000 standard prior to 2014 and for not adopting the superseding RP-2014 table after that date. Prior experience studies (if any exist) were not available for review.

The apparent tardiness in adopting best practices goes beyond using obsolete mortality tables. Until the 2010 valuation, the actuary did not utilize a gendered table for separations from service. Women comprised more than 20 percent of active plan membership as early as 1991.20 With adoption of the UP-1994 Mortality Table in 2010, the outline of actuarial assumptions also disclosed that the male mortality rates were used for all employees and retirees, whereas the female version was used for all beneficiaries. The structure of previous valuation reports implies that they did not use gender-specific mortality tables either, although the relevant disclosure is absent from those reports. The use of male mortality tables appears to have continued through the 2014 valuation, the most recent obtained before the completion of this report.
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  #508  
Old 04-07-2017, 06:23 PM
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JAMAICA

http://nationwideradiojm.com/govt-to...ension-reform/

Quote:
GOVT TO PHASE IN PUBLIC SECTOR PENSION REFORM

Finance Minister, Audley Shaw, says the expected five-percent contribution to be paid by public sector works under new pension reform legislation will be phased in.

He also announced today a change in the date for the government to implement its reform legislation to June 1.

The new pension legislation will, over time, see all public sector workers paying five percent of their salaries toward their pensions.

Groups such as the Police Federation and the Jamaica Teacher’s Association had cautioned that paying the full amount up front would cause economic hardships.

Minister Shaw says after consultations with civil servants, the full five percent will become payable on April 1, 2019.

Home Evening News Govt to Phase In Public Sector Pension Reform
Pension-Reform
GOVT TO PHASE IN PUBLIC SECTOR PENSION REFORM
Nationwide NewsnetApr 06, 2017Evening News, MA_Latest News, MA_National0 CommentsLIKE
Finance Minister, Audley Shaw, says the expected five-percent contribution to be paid by public sector works under new pension reform legislation will be phased in.

He also announced today a change in the date for the government to implement its reform legislation to June 1.

00:0000:36
The new pension legislation will, over time, see all public sector workers paying five percent of their salaries toward their pensions.

Groups such as the Police Federation and the Jamaica Teacher’s Association had cautioned that paying the full amount up front would cause economic hardships.

Minister Shaw says after consultations with civil servants, the full five percent will become payable on April 1, 2019.

00:0000:23
In the meantime, Minister Shaw announced his intention to table other legislations, changing the early retirement age of police members.

He says soon all members of the Constabulary Force will be eligible for early retirement at the age of 50 down from 60 after 30 years of service.

The Finance Minister says a dedicated pension fund will be set up once the country’s debt to GDP ratio reaches 60-percent.

However, MP for Central Kingston, Ronald Thwaites, raised the concern that this meant the government would not be matching contributions made by public sector workers for many years.

On this point, Prime Minister Andrew Holness stepped in to provide clarity.

He says regardless of the existence of a dedicated fund, public sector workers are guaranteed their pensions.
http://nationwideradiojm.com/teacher...ension-reform/

Quote:
TEACHERS PLEASED WITH PHASED-IN PENSION REFORM

President of the Jamaica Teachers Association, JTA, Howard Isaacs, says teachers are pleased with the government’s decision to phase in the contributions to their pension scheme.

Teachers and some other public sector workers will now only be required to pay 2.5-percent of their salaries towards their pensions for the first two years.

The implementation date has also moved from April to June 1.

The full 5-percent contribution will become effective in 2019.

Mr. Isaacs says the phased-in approach was arrived at following negotiations with the unions.
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Old 04-07-2017, 06:26 PM
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MASSACHUSETTS
CRIMINAL OFFICIALS

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/20...YJL/story.html

Quote:
Supreme Judicial Court says former speaker Thomas Finneran must lose pension

Reversing the decision of a lower court judge, the state’s highest court ruled Wednesday that former House speaker Thomas Finneran must forfeit his public pension because he was found guilty of a federal crime that related to his former office.

The decision could cost Finneran more than $470,000 in future retirement benefits, according to court records.

“Finneran’s crime directly concerns actions that he had carried out when he served as speaker, in his role as speaker,” the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in a unanimous 19-page decision written by Justice Barbara A. Lenk.

The decision affects Finneran’s case alone and brought to a close a legal drama that began when Finneran was convicted of obstruction of justice for lying under oath in 2007, three years after he resigned as speaker.

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The state’s Retirement Board revoked Finneran’s pension in 2012, but in an appeal of that decision, Boston Municipal Court Associate Justice Serge Georges Jr. ruled in 2015 that Finneran’s conviction could not be linked to his role as speaker. He ordered the annual pension reinstated, retroactive to 2012.

But this week, the Supreme Judicial Court rejected Georges’ legal basis for his decision, finding a “factual” connection between Finneran’s lies and his position as House speaker.

It was not immediately clear whether Finneran will have to repay the Retirement Board for any money he has collected.


State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, whose office overseas the Retirement Board, would not comment.

Nicholas Poser, an attorney for Finneran who specializes in public pension law, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the decision.

“I thought that we had made a very cogent argument that Mr. Finneran’s conviction was not directly. . . related to his job as speaker of the House,” Poser said. “The SJC didn’t see it in that position.”

He added, however, that the decision does not affect other pension cases involving public officials, which have been the subject of increasing legal disputes before the high court in recent years, according to Poser and other legal analysts.

“The SJC is not viewing this as breaking new ground; they’re seeing this as a reiteration of standards they’ve already enunciated,” said Katherine Hesse, of the law firm Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane. “I think this is a very high profile example of the way their cases appear to be going lately.”

Finneran resigned as speaker in 2004 and pleaded guilty in federal court three years later to obstruction of justice for lying under oath in a federal civil lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the state’s 2001 redistricting plan on the basis that new legislative districts discriminated against minority communities.

Finneran had said under oath that, as the state’s most powerful politician, he had no involvement in the redistricting process, a statement he later agreed was a lie.

Poser has argued that Finneran’s conviction could not be tied to his duties as House speaker, a post he had held from 1996 until his resignation; Finneran did not testify in his official capacity as speaker, he had been discussing events that occurred years earlier, and the testimony did not matter to the duties of his job, Poser argued.

The Supreme Judicial Court rejected those arguments, however. While agreeing that Finneran’s conviction “does not directly implicate his duties as speaker of the House, it is nonetheless inextricably intertwined with his position.”

The court found that Finneran worked on the redistricting plan in his capacity as speaker, and that he had an “admitted motivation” for the lie: “By his own account, Finneran provided his false testimony to vindicate his conduct as speaker of the House regarding the redistricting plan,” the court said.

“This further underscores the factual connection between Finneran’s false testimony and his work on the redistrict plan as speaker of the house,” the court ruled.

The high court also took the rare step of stating its position on Finneran’s claim that a public official’s forfeiture of his pension amounts to an excessive penalty under the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The court had ruled last year that a Peabody police lieutenant should not have to forfeit more than $650,000 in pension benefits after his conviction for job-related misdemeanors because the forfeiture was excessive punishment.

In its decision Wednesday, the court ruled that Finneran could not make that claim because he did not raise it in his official appeal. However, the court added, even if Finneran could raise the claim, he would not be entitled to the same relief as the Peabody lieutenant because his crime was worse and carried a stiffer punishment.

Milton Valencia can be reached at Milton.Valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MiltonValencia
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Old 04-07-2017, 06:41 PM
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DALLAS and HOUSTON
TEXAS

https://www.usnews.com/news/us/artic...-vote-lawmaker

Quote:
Dallas, Houston Pension Bills on Track for House Vote: Lawmaker

(Reuters) - Legislation addressing public pension problems in the two biggest cities in Texas are on track for a House vote this month, a key state lawmaker said on Wednesday.

A bill for Houston's retirement system passed the Texas House Pensions Committee on Wednesday and State Representative Dan Flynn, the committee's Republican chairman, said a Dallas measure should follow suit by next week.

"I believe both bills will make it to the House floor in the next couple of weeks," he said in an interview, noting the legislation is the culmination of 18 months of work to find fixes for the financially ailing pension systems.

With the Dallas police and fire pension system projected to become insolvent within 10 years, legislation would cut the nearly $3.7 billion unfunded liability to $2.18 billion and boost the funded ratio to nearly 50 percent from the current 36.8 percent, according to a bill analysis. To accomplish that, the measure would increase retirement ages, hike worker and city contributions, limit cost-of-living (COLA) increases for retirees, and restructure governance.

....
Flynn said his committee became involved because pension problems contributed to credit rating downgrades for both cities.

"If the two largest cities in Texas start getting downgraded, well, it could actually affect our Texas bond ratings," he said, referring to the state's triple-A credit standing.


http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news...l-11053764.php

Quote:
House panel OKs pension bill

Houston's pension reform bill will move to the floor of each legislative chamber after a Texas House committee joined its Senate counterparts in passing the measure 6-1 Wednesday.

With Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, opposed, the pensions committee adopted House Bill 43, which will now head to a scheduling committee.

"I am thankful to the committee members and Chairman Dan Flynn," Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a prepared statement, referencing the Dallas-area Republican who oversees pension discussions. "I am happy to see that our state lawmakers understand how important this is to Houston's future. We are going to keep up the pressure until our plan becomes law."

Houston Republican Sen. Joan Huffman's committee passed the bill last month by a similar margin of 7-1. The main difference between the bills is that Huffman's version seeks a referendum on pension bonds such as the $1 billion in bonds that are a key part of the reform package; the House version does not include that language.

This fight must play out in Austin because benefits for the city's police, fire and municipal retirees are enshrined in state statute and cannot be enacted without action by the Texas Legislature.


https://www.dallasnews.com/news/dall...efs-say-letter

Quote:
Dallas law enforcement in crisis, and failing pension, low pay to blame, former chiefs warn
FILED UNDER

Former Dallas police chiefs warn in a letter that the police department is in crisis because of the failing police and fire pension system.
The letter, released Wednesday, calls out city leaders for "pointing fingers" instead of focusing on "consequences of ill-conceived proposed solutions."
The pension is expected to reach insolvency within the next decade.
The letter — signed by retired police chiefs, assistant chiefs and deputy chiefs that are pension members — echoes other complaints retirees have lobbed at the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System. The letter isn't addressed to a specific person or organization, though it was released days after Mayor Mike Rawlings denounced a bill before state legislators that would take control of the pension fund away from the city.
Signees of the letter include former Dallas Police Chief Ben Click and current Dallas ISD Police Chief Craig Miller, who was a deputy chief in the Dallas Police Department.
Letter here:
https://www.scribd.com/document/3441...efs#from_embed
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