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  #61  
Old 01-14-2019, 10:53 AM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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CALIFORNIA
CALPERS

https://www.ai-cio.com/news/new-calp...e-equity-plan/
Quote:
New CalPERS Board Member Has Serious Concerns About Private Equity Plan
Jason Perez is also skeptical about ESG investing, a focus that most individuals on the CalPERS board support.

Spoiler:

Jason Perez won’t officially be sworn in as a board member of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System until Jan. 21, but he has already developed serious concerns about the retirement plan’s $20 billion planned private equity initiative, he told CIO.

The police sergeant from Corona, California, who beat CalPERS Board President Priva Mathur in an election upset in October, said he has problems with the lack of public disclosure that will be part of the new private equity plan.

CalPERS investment officials have proposed two private equity organizations that will be funded by the pension plan to make direct investments. Horizon would make buy-and-hold investments in established companies, while Innovation would take stakes in late-stage venture capital companies in the technology, life science or healthcare segments.

Each limited-liability corporation would be controlled by an external general partner and would not be subject to state public disclosure laws. Basic information including the compensation packages for the general partners wouldn’t be publicly disclosed. CalPERS officials have acknowledged that the general partners could make millions of dollars a year with bonuses.

Perez told CIO that the planned private equity program should be transparent, underscoring the importance of “the ability of the public to keep us honest.”

The police sergeant also said he wants a full explanation from CalPERS legal officials as to how they have determined the program is legal. Under the CalPERS new private equity plan, the pension system would be a limited partner as part of a general partner-limited partner relationship in Horizon and Innovation but wouldn’t have a say in specific investments made by the two private equity organizations.

“I don’t know that CalPERS can do legally what it is attempting,” he said. Perez said he would be in a better position to understand some of the issues around the private equity organization if the CalPERS board would make public what it discusses in closed session, something he thinks the board should do as much as possible on all issues.

CalPERS officials say they expect to ask board members to approve the program in February or March, but Perez said he feels it might be difficult for him to understand the full ramifications of the private equity initiative so quickly. He said that a six-month delay before the vote might be preferable.

Pension system investment officials have said time is of the essence in getting the program approved, noting that potential general partners have other options besides CalPERS.

Perez received national publicity when he beat Mathur, particularly because he campaigned against core tenets of the CalPERS investment program, such as the pension system’s emphasis on engaging corporations to improve sustainability practices and increase the diversity of their governing boards.

The pension system engages corporations it holds stock in on the theory that good environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices will lead to better investment results. It also requires its external managers to explain how they use ESG factors in their portfolio selections. In addition, CalPERS has small investment portfolios that use ESG factors. For example, of its $165.8 billion global equity portfolio, around $3 billion is comprised of ESG investments.

Perez continues to question whether ESG is a wasted effort by CalPERS. In the interview with CIO, he said he is not against ensuring companies have proper risk management, which could involve looking at ESG factors. Perez, however, said he wants to ensure there are reasons for the ESG investing and engagement that CalPERS practices.

“When ESG has nothing to do with maximizing returns and it is just for the sake of being socially conscious, it shouldn’t have a place in our retirement plan,” he said.

Perez said he is also concerned that CalPERS may put too much pressure on corporations to live up to standards like board of directors’ diversity when it may have nothing to do with making profits. CalPERS has made a major push to put women and minorities on corporate boards in recent years.

“We should not be extorting companies,” he said.

Perez said at the first CalPERS meeting he attended several years ago, there was a three-hour discussion on diversity in corporate boards, not how CalPERS should maximize investment returns. “It really threw me off. I was pretty upset,” he said.

The police sergeant said he also has concerns about CalPERS’s divestment efforts, such as its 2000 ban on investing in companies with tobacco interests. The CalPERS investment committee revisited the issue in 2016 but decided to keep the ban in place and extend it not only to the CalPERS internal portfolio, but to external managers.

Perez said that was the wrong decision, noting a CalPERS consultant’s study that showed a several-billion-dollar loss long-term because of the divestment.

“If it’s legal and it’s no way connected to terrorism and it’s profitable, we should be in it,” Perez said.

Perez has worked for the Corona police department since the mid-1990s. The city of 106,000 residents is only 47 miles from Los Angeles, but the distance seems farther. Banners hang from lamp posts with pictures of every town resident who has served in the military.

Trendy restaurants are impossible to find, but hundreds of people are waiting in line on Saturday night for dinner at the Texas Roadhouse, a restaurant chain in one of the local strip malls. Perez lives next door in Norco, a rural community in the heart of California horse county.

“I am a tobacco-chewing redneck from Norco,” he said bluntly.

Perez said he is concerned about CalPERS being able to pay pension benefits for him and the 1.8 million other California residents in the largest US pension plan, and it’s the reason he ran for election.

CalPERS is only around 70% funded and conservative critics have argued that state and local governments need to reduce pension benefits or scrap defined-benefit programs like CalPERS in favor of defined contribution plans.

Perez will be only one voice on the 13-member CalPERS board, which also includes the state controller and the state treasurer. Most of the 13 members, who also serve on the system’s investment committee, are strong supporters of CalPERS’s ESG efforts and the new private equity plan.

Perez said he won’t be afraid to make his views known on the board and investment committees.

He said in the limited training he has received so far, he has been told about working positively with his colleagues. “Make sure you interact with people collegially,” he said he was told.

Perez said he is open to all views but doesn’t expect to be quiet when expressing his concerns at board and investment committee meetings.

“It would be nice to get along with everybody,” he said. “But that’s not the goal.”


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Old 01-14-2019, 11:25 AM
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https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/ar...t-date#new_tab

Quote:
The Pension Fund Problem Just Got Much Worse
A simple extrapolation of the recent trend lines suggest a crisis around 2023, as assets are wiped out even if returns rebound.

Spoiler:
The 14 percent drop in the S&P 500 Index last quarter has big implications for state and local pension funds, which probably saw the value of their assets fall by about 7 percent. Investors with the benefit of a long-term horizon have the ability to ignore market dips, and pension funds are among the longest-term investors, but their problems are not long-term and further short-term declines could precipitate a crisis.

The table below shows pension fund assets and liabilities as compiled by Pew Charitable Trusts. There is a large and growing gap, but that’s not the primary problem. Although the value of those assets is known with reasonable accuracy, the liability figure is based on assumptions about the future. The actuarial and political assumptions are uncertain, but it is the investment assumptions – plans assume an average discount rate of 7 percent – that are the most problematic.


Average returns for pension-fund-like portfolios only generated returns of 7 percent or greater for 50-year periods twice since 1871, 1 for investors who started soon after World War I or World War II. Starting at a random time generated an average return of 5.30 percent, ranging from a low of 3.16 percent to a high of 7.99 percent.


The problem is worse for two reasons. First, cumulative returns are lower than averages. A return of 7 percent grows $100 to $114.49 in two years. A 50 percent return in the first year and a loss of 36 percent in the second results in an average of 7 percent, but causes that $100 to decline to $96.


Second, an extended period of bad returns cannot be made up even with astronomical returns later. Suppose a fund has 50 years of level monthly payments and assets to support them assuming a 7 percent return. If the fund earns zero over the first 15 years, one might think the fund needs to average 10 percent over the final 35 years to meet its obligations. 2 In fact, the fund is broke in less than 15 years, and it doesn’t matter what returns are afterwards.

Due to those two effects, if a fund started on the best possible date, June 1949 3 — earning an average 7.99 percent – it went broke in 1986. The fund’s final 13 years of obligations went unpaid even though its average return was almost 1 percent above the normal assumption. Even if pension funds were fully funded according to assumptions, there is no chance existing assets are enough to pay already-contracted liabilities. 4

But worrying about the next five decades is pointless, because there’s also no chance the current system will survive long enough to discover what the next 50-year average returns will be. Once total assets start to decline, as they did in 2016 (the last year for which we have aggregated national data), you can get a death spiral with an ever-shrinking base of assets failing to produce the needed income, leading to asset sales and further declines in income.

We’re nowhere near the tipping point on an aggregate national level, but aggregate national flows will not trigger a crisis. New Jersey added $27 billion in liabilities in 2016, and lost $6 billion of assets because contributions and investment earnings couldn’t even cover benefit payments, much less build the fund to pay for additional benefits earned. 5 The chart below shows the assets and liabilities for New Jersey state and local pension funds.


A simple extrapolation of the lines suggests a crisis around 2023, 6 when pension fund assets are wiped out. That’s an extrapolation, not a prediction. Market returns and political actions could move the date a few years in either direction. Moreover, action will be forced before assets go to zero. We don’t know when or how or what will happen, but it won’t depend on average investment returns over the next few decades.

This brings us back to the recent decline in the stock market. This commentary uses 2016 pension fund data. Most pension funds use a June 30 fiscal year, so fourth-quarter calendar 2018 results will be reported in late 2019 or 2020. The two major aggregations of the thousands of fund reports 7 will be published in mid-2021. If stocks continue down to the point that a major state passes the tipping point to crisis, the crisis will be well advanced before we see it in aggregate pension financial reports.

The state and local pension crisis has passed from a long-term actuarial crisis to a medium-term cash flow crisis. Forget about liability projections and aggregated national numbers. Look at the least responsible big states and focus on asset values, inflows and outflows. That’s where disaster will force a new regime.

These are my estimates based on stock, bond and inflation returns reported by Yale University Professor Robert Shiller .

Earning 10 percent for 70 percentof the period, 35 out of 50 years, averages 7 percentper year.

Getting the 1950s, 1980s and 1990s bull marketsand ending at the height of the dot-com bubble.

Increased funding is still a good idea. The earlier the problem is addressed, the less painful the adjustments. But full funding according to existing accounting will not prevent an eventual crisis.

The general picture is similar, although not as extreme, for states such asIllinois, California, Connecticut, Kentucky and Colorado.

We’ve already seen financial disasters in Detroit, Puerto Rico and numerous smaller places, but in these cases pension underfunding was part of larger fiscal and governance problems. These events will certainly continue, but will not force a major nationwide policy realignment.

The Pew Charitable Trusts cited above and the U.S. Department of Census Annual Survey of Public Pensions.


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Old 01-14-2019, 12:21 PM
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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ebauer/...E#49802794186a

Quote:
Chicago Pensions: Is There Hope For Reform?

Spoiler:
I wrote last week that there is no longer any low-hanging fruit with respect to the underfunding of Chicago pensions. There are no easy solutions to the pension debt faced by the city of Chicago pension funds. The payments the city is committed to making over the next 40 years will severely tax its budget, and the plans are so poorly funded that, absent these contributions, they face honest-to-goodness insolvency, no differently than the poster child for insolvency, Central States (Teamsters).

Here's one solution: a nice bout of hyperinflation. A majority of the liability (depending on plan) is in the form of benefits in payment, or the frozen benefits due to terminated/vested participants. Since the cost-of-living adjustment is a fixed 3% for the Tier I folk who make up the majority of this group of plan participants, the plan will come out ahead if inflation gallops along at 10%, 20%, or more, for a couple years. To be sure, current workers will likely see their pay increase to match inflation, so the inflationary period would have to last long enough for them to retiree, in order to impact their benefits, but surely it'll be worth it.


No?

Then how about soon-to-be former mayor Rahm Emanuel's preferred solution, pension obligation bonds?

There is no clever financing alchemy to these bonds, merely the intent to profit from the difference between the interest rate at which the city could issue these bonds and the expected investment returns that their supporters hope to achieve by investing the proceeds, and, while there is no reason for us all to start pulling our money out of mutual funds and hiding it under our mattresses, it remains a risky endeavor for the city to undertake, all the more so because these bonds would be taxable and issued at the market rate for such bonds, and because the only way for the city to lower the interest rate is to guarantee investors an asset, in this case, future sales tax revenues, as collateral. And none of this has any connection to pension financing but one indicator of the soundness - or, rather lack thereof - of this approach is apparent in that the city isn't aiming at finding a new revenue source for schools or parks or road resurfacing in this manner. (For reference, see my prior articles "Public Pensions And Public Trust", "Why Chicago's Pension Obligation Bond Plan Is Even Worse Than It Seems", and "Is This The Real Reason For Chicago's Pension Obligation Bond Proposal?" as well as "Chicago doesn't need to gamble on pension bonds" at Crain's Chicago Business, and "Seven reasons why Mayor Emanuel’s proposed pension plan fails" at Wirepoints.)

So what's left? Yes, benefit cuts.

And, yes, care should be taken to mitigate harms, rather than applying across-the-board cuts. Active Tier I workers might have Tier II or III retirement eligibility rules applied to them. Participants might have the 2.4% benefit increase rescinded. Retirees' benefits could be capped, or fractionally reduced only to the extent they exceed a livable retirement income. COLAs might be set at actual inflation, with a "holiday" to freeze benefits until they match what they would have been if they had tracked these lower inflation rates, and provided only up to a benefit level that resembles what the rest of us receive in Social Security. A "grand bargain" could remedy existing harms, such as the Tier II pay caps and the the high vesting requirements. And all of the above should be balanced with a serious assessment of to what extent the city can increase taxes further without overburdening its residents and doing more harm than good through population loss -- a subject I don't claim to be expert in.

How might cuts be achieved? Yes, it's an encouraging sign that Emanuel has himself spoken in favor of a constitutional amendment, a necessary first step before any solution by the legislature can be considered.

But which example of cuts would the city then follow?

One model for benefit reductions, though at the state rather than local level, was that of Rhode Island, which instituted a number of changes to remedy a 48% funded (FY 2010) pension system, with a reform that was signed into law in November 2011. (See "What are the Rhode Island Pension Reforms?" at the Civic Federation website and Pension Reform Case Study: Rhode Island by Reason Foundation for details.)

The law made a number of changes to Rhode Island pensions:

The traditional plan was frozen and future accruals were dropped from between 1.6% to 3% down to 1% plus a new Defined Contribution plan.
COLAs were frozen until the total funding levels for all state plans exceed 80%, with interim increases paid based only in cases of favorable asset return, every five years, and, after that 80% funding level has been met, COLA payments will still be contingent on funding level.
COLAs will only be applied to the first $25,000 in income in any case.
Retirement age is increased for all employees, though the increase is partial for vested employees.
Predictably, unions sued, and ultimately the parties came to a settlement agreement in 2015, which included

two one-time stipends payable to all current retirees; an increased cost-of-living adjustment cap for current retirees; and lowering the retirement age, which varies among participants depending on years of service

according to Pensions & Investments.

Could Illinois and Chicago follow Rhode Island's example? We are handicapped in two ways: in the first place, that state had a more favorable legal structure and was not obliged to make any constitutional changes; secondly, the political environment was different - the State Treasurer, now governor, Gina Raimondo, was a Democrat, but here in Illinois, our incoming Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker, still insists that Illinois need take no action except to borrow and reduce its funding target.

Is Chicago, then, doomed to bankruptcy? The Detroit experience would seem to be a worst-case scenario. Retirees' pensions were cut by 4.5%, COLAs were eliminated (except for police and fire COLAs, which were reduced from 2.25% to 1%), and retiree healthcare benefits were reduced to 10% of their prior value. While it no doubt caused hardship for many retirees, as profiled in a summer Detroit News report, the city's situation was unsustainable:

At the time of Detroit's bankruptcy, pension and health care obligations made up about 40 percent of the city's annual budget, and it was projected to climb to 60-70 percent within a few years, [retired U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, who presided over the city's case] said.

However much Detroit and Chicago may share financial woes regarding pension fund underfunding, the impact was clearly far greater in the case of a city like Detroit, with its dramatic decline in population producing far greater burdens, in terms of the relative number of retirees compared to the city's tax base and current spending.

But even the case of Detroit was not a "simple" case of negotiating with creditors as would be true of a corporate bankruptcy. As Forbes Contributor Pete Saunders wrote back in 2016, key local foundations such as the Ford Foundation actually brought cash to the table to boost pension funding in what was called the "Grand Bargain." Were it not for their actions, the pension reductions might have been much harsher.

At the start of Detroit's bankruptcy process, creditors honed in on the potential value of the city-owned art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The philanthropic community was alarmed at the possibility of losing the city's world-famous cultural heritage at bargain-basement prices, and was spurred into action. After negotiations with the Kevyn Orr, Detroit's emergency manager leading the city through the bankruptcy process, and state, union and corporate leadership, a deal was struck that shifted the foundation focus from simply saving the artwork to a broader contribution to resolving the debt crisis. That led to the philanthropic pledge of $366 million over twenty years, along with a public union pledge to accept reduced benefits and significant corporate contributions, to help Detroit speed successfully toward approval of its plan of adjustment.

Saunders expresses the hope that local foundations in other rust-belt cities such as Chicago might likewise play a role in solving their pension crises. I'm less hopeful that foundations will step in outside of Detroit; perhaps it's the (suburban) Detroiter that's still in me even after living my adult life in suburban Chicago, but my sense is that Detroit foundations see themselves as much more connected to the city than is the case for foundations which happen to be headquartered in Chicago.

(Incidentally, my first intention was to cite Stockton, San Bernadino, and other Californian cities as bankruptcy examples, but, as it turned out, they did not cut pensions, even after rulings that enabled them to do so. because, due to the way in which their pensions function through the CALPERS system, it would have been an all-or-nothing deal which was not a feasible alternative.)

There's a third alternative, at least in principle: a group of lawyers and actuaries, W. Gordon Hamlin, Jr., Mary Pat Campbell, Andrew M. Silton, and James E. Spiotto, have proposed that municipalities use a prepackaged Chapter 9 bankruptcy process to reduce their pension debts. (The short version of their proposal is an article at MuniNet Guide, "Embracing Shared Risk and Chapter 9 to Create Sustainable Public Pensions"; the longer version is "Transitioning American Public Pension Plans to a Shared Risk Model Through Prepackaged Chapter 9 Plans of Debt Adjustment," by Hamlin and Campbell.)

They write (in the first link):

Real reform needs to begin with a task force of affected stakeholders (employees, teachers, retirees, school districts and local governments) who work with an independent actuary and an independent facilitator/mediator to design a new pension plan along the lines of the New Brunswick shared risk model. Second, the legislature has to adopt that model through enabling legislation and then require school districts and local governments to contribute on a one-time basis an amount sufficient to bring the relevant plan up to 120% funded status (calculated with a discount rate of less than 5%), an amount that none of those entities could afford.

Having created a framework for reform, the Chapter 9 bankruptcy process can provide the vehicle for transitioning to a shared risk model. Having satisfied the “insolvency” criteria of the Bankruptcy Act, the local entities would inform bondholders and other creditors that the upcoming Chapter 9 bankruptcy will not impair them and will only address pension liabilities. The local entities would begin the process of disclosure and voting with the three classes of unsecured creditors (current employees, inactive employees, and retirees) to try to reach agreement on a new shared risk model. Once these negotiations and voting by the impaired classes are complete, the Chapter 9 petition, the prepackaged Plan of Debt Adjustment, can be filed, indicating that a majority by number and two-thirds (2/3) by amount of the claims voted (of at least one of the classes of impaired creditors) have voted in favor of the plan. The Bankruptcy Court then approves the reform plan transitioning all the local employees and retirees into the shared risk plan. Direct state employees and retirees would transition voluntarily, perhaps with the incentive that COLAs would only be available within the shared risk plan. Assets would then be transferred to the new shared risk plan. . . .

The case law now permits municipalities to alter their pension obligations in Chapter 9 proceedings, even if statutes or constitutional provisions prohibit impairment of contracts. Some 24 states currently permit Chapter 9 filings, with some requiring approval by a state official. States which have not granted such approval, like Illinois, could do so with an enabling statute.

Is this too good to be true? Or is it worth a shot, or at least adding to the discussions we have? At any rate, we need to start having those discussions.



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Old 01-14-2019, 05:16 PM
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KENTUCKY


http://www.wkms.org/post/kentucky-le...ension-systems
Quote:
Kentucky Legislature Creates New Group To Review Pension Systems

Spoiler:
Leaders of the Kentucky legislature have formed a new group tasked with reviewing and analyzing the state’s pension systems, which are underfunded and have been the subject of controversial reform attempts in recent years.

The move comes after the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down the legislature’s last effort to address the pension issue by weakening retirement benefits for some current and most future state workers.

The court ruled that lawmakers broke the law by rushing the bill to passage, but didn’t weigh in on whether the benefit changes were legal.

In the wake of a failed special legislative session called by Gov. Matt Bevin to try and pass a new pension bill last month, House Speaker David Osborne said that lawmakers were prepared to pass the old pension bill again.

But Bevin wanted legislators to pass a scaled-back version of the bill to help ensure the bill would survive a legal challenge.

According to a news release, the new Public Pensions Working Group will “conduct a review of the systems’ structure, costs, benefits, and funding.”

The group is supposed to come up with recommendations for how the legislature should address the pension systems by Feb. 15, though it could receive extensions until March 1 or Dec. 1 if it needs more time.

The panel will be chaired by Sen. Wil Schroder, a Republican from Wilder, and Rep. Jerry Miller, a Republican from Louisville.

Since 2013, the legislature has had a special panel to review the pension systems’ financial health — the Public Pension Oversight Board — which includes lawmakers, state officials and experts.

The new group includes only elected lawmakers.



https://www.amnews.com/2019/01/11/wo...ension-reform/

Quote:
Working group offers hope for responsible pension reform

By Advocate-Messenger

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Published 6:01 pm Friday, January 11, 2019

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EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger
Spoiler:
It comes as no surprise addressing Kentucky’s underfunded pension system would be a major priority in this year’s General Session.

While lawmakers announced earlier this week the top priority would be Senate Bill 1, which establishes a framework for school safety measures, the legislature also made steps to begin work on pension reform.

Friday, legislative leaders announced a working group that would study the pension system and make recommendations for improvements and changes by mid-February, leaving enough time to pass a pension reform bill before the session adjourns in March.

The Public Pensions Working Group, which was created by co-chairs of the Legislative Research Commission, will conduct a review of the systems’ structure, costs, benefits and funding. The first meeting of the 14-member group is set for Jan. 15.

We were fully expecting a pension reform bill that nearly mirrored last year’s SB 1 and SB 151 to be introduced within the first week of the session.

Thankfully, that is not the case.

Working groups of this sort have proven to introduce meaningful bills with greater public support for a number or reasons.

Most importantly, these work groups are made up of legislators from all across the state, from the House and the Senate, and of Republicans and Democrats. They are bipartisan by nature, with the group focused solely on learning more about how to pass a good bill to address an issue.

Additionally, these groups seek meaningful feedback from various stakeholders. For example, the work group established last year to address school safety spoke with teachers, students, law enforcement and more. Those conversations produced a comprehensive bill with largely bipartisan support.

We hope this pension reform working group will take a note from this example and seek out valuable information about how pension reform will impact current teachers, future educators, state employees and our first responders, as well as the state’s budget, insurance bond rating, workforce and more.

Through those conversations and research, the group should be able to propose a bill that will put our state’s pension system on a firmer footing and minimize the negative impacts to our valued school and state employees.

The General Assembly missed an opportunity last year to pass legalization that would have been fair but also financially responsible for the state. Those policy proposals were marred with controversy, illegally passed bills and an evident partisan divide in our state government.

Establishing this working group is a step in the right direction to ensuring we can pass pension reform this year in a legal, mature, responsible and beneficial way.


https://www.theadvocates.org/2019/01...nsion-problem/
Quote:
Kentucky Governor Dismisses Marijuana Legalization As A Means To Address Pension Problem

Spoiler:
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said that legalizing marijuana and taxing it to death would not solve the state’s underfunded pension problem. And he’s right. After all, out of the 50 U.S. states, 41 are completely unable to pay all their bills, racking up over $1.5 trillion in unfunded debt — Kentucky is one of them.

Being one of the states with the worst-funded pension systems in the country, it’s obvious that Kentucky will struggle as it enters an uncertain, unfunded future. And Gov. Bevin, desperate to not look like the one who let the mess get out of hand, called for a special session to fix the problem. Unfortunately, lawmakers failed to come up with any solution, even after the governor’s pressure.



Discussing the issue with the media, Bevin said that even if the state legalized marijuana it wouldn’t help. After all, it would take “hundreds” of years to replenish the public pension system.

Early in 2018, a criminal justice reform bill that would have helped to save the state money failed to make it to the governor’s desk.

The piece of legislation, which was promoted by Bevin, would have helped to save state taxpayers $340 million by putting an end to the growth of Kentucky’s prison population. Part of the changes promoted by the bill included reducing first- and second-offense drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors.

Similarly, the legalization of marijuana could at least help the state control its prison population by no longer making it a crime to possess any amount of the substance. That along with the tax revenue associated with the legal sales of weed could end up boosting the state’s revenue regardless of whether it would help the pensions system in the short term. Interestingly enough, Bevin doesn’t seem to buy into the idea.

“I personally see some of these things as ‘it looks good, sounds good’ but doesn’t even begin to make a real dent in the issue without the structural changes,” he explained.

Only The Market Can Fix The Pension Problem

States are inherently inefficient. So why do we keep acting as if bureaucrats should remain in the business of old-age security?

Precisely because financial security and retirement are long-term issues, politicians are the wrong people for the job. After all, their goal is to satisfy voters’ short-term needs. Unfortunately, state-run pensions have slowly entrenched themselves as rights, and courts have consistently rejected any changes to the system. The result? All politicians can do is to promise and push for more taxation so public employees get their retirement money.

For taxpayers to be protected, the only real solution is to bring the public pensions system to a complete end. But who will let this happen?

With federal, state, and local governments employing 17 percent of U.S. workers and 35.4 percent of people living in the country on some type of welfare, it’s clear that few, if any, voters would really go for the politician who promises to bring the public pensions system to an end.


https://www.wkyt.com/content/news/Pe...504233821.html
Quote:
Pension talks remain in limbo one week into legislative session

Spoiler:
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Lawmakers are one week into the new legislative session, yet the state's pension problem is still waiting to be solved.


It's been an admittedly slower start to the 2019 General Assembly by legislators. Despite the Senate working on several bills and already passing floor votes and the House discussing various topics, pension reform has yet to be brought up.

Speaker of the House David Osborne (R) said on Friday that pension reform is something that will take a lot of cooperation, education and negotiation. Lawmakers don't want to rush the process and make things worse.

"It is certainly not my hope or preference that we don't have one (a bill) before we leave, but I think we have to be realistic," Osborne said.

Contrarily, Minority Leader Rep. Rocky Adkins (D) and other democratic members stand united in their belief that 2008 and 2013 reforms are working. Yet, they hope if pension reform does happen then its a bipartisan effort.

"Stakeholders need to be at the table and their needs to be compromise," said Adkins. "The minority party wants a seat at the table."


Leaders did announce the formation of a bipartisan public pension working group tasked with analyzing the current pension systems and making recommendations for any changes.

Lawmakers, however, are now on break for a few weeks until the session resumes on February 5.


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Old 01-14-2019, 05:18 PM
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CONNECTICUT

https://www.pionline.com/article/201...pension-crisis

Quote:
Connecticut pension commission heads into overtime to solve funding crisis

Spoiler:
Connecticut's Pension Sustainability Commission is working past its initial deadline to fulfill its mandate to address the state's pension crisis, said state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, who chairs the 13-member commission.

Mr. Steinberg said that he expects the commission to be open for only "another month or two."

"We're just trying to complete as much of our mission mandate as possible," he added.

RELATED COVERAGE
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The commission was first established in October 2017 but didn't convene for the first time until July, resulting in the need to extend its work past the original statutory deadline.

The commission was established to "study the feasibility of placing state capital assets in a trust and maximizing those assets for the sole benefit of the state pension system," said the description on the state general assembly's website. It is looking to explore the legitimacy of a legacy obligation trust as a means of mitigating the unfunded liability of Connecticut's $34 billion Retirement Plans & Trust Funds, Hartford.

The commission is also looking into the viability of either selling or leasing state-owned properties not currently being used for government functions as a means to provide the state's pensions with additional cash or revenue streams.

"We're going to do the best job we can to provide guidance to legislation," Mr. Steinberg said. "Connecticut is going to get its house in order. It's long overdue. We're addressing this problem."


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  #66  
Old 01-14-2019, 05:21 PM
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CALIFORNIA

https://www.benefitspro.com/2019/01/...20190014161224

Quote:
New California gov proposes paying extra $3B to CalPERS pension fund
By trying to pay off as much of the unfunded pension liabilities up front, the state could collectively save about $14.6 billion over 30 years.

Spoiler:
(Bloomberg) –California Governor Gavin Newsom didn’t campaign on bolstering public pensions, but they figure prominently in his first budget.
In the spending plan for the fiscal year beginning in July, he proposed making an extra $3 billion payment to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System to pay down what the state owes to the fund — a debt that grows each year.

That’s on top of the $6.8 billion contribution California is required to make to the nation’s largest public pension, according to the budget plan released Thursday.
In addition, Newsom would give an extra $2.9 billion over four years to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, on top of the $3.3 billion payment required for next year.

By trying to pay off as much of the unfunded liabilities up front, the state could collectively save about $14.6 billion over 30 years. That’s because unfunded liabilities grow at the same rate as the pensions’ expected investment returns, which compensates the funds for gains they would have received if the money had been used to buy stocks and other assets.

Newsom, in a Sacramento briefing four days after assuming office, called the additional funding an historic step. His predecessor, Jerry Brown, was the first in 2017 to propose an extra CalPERS payment, though his $6 billion infusion relied on a loan from an internal investment account, not on general-fund budget dollars.
Yield penalty shrinks for California. (Chart: Bloomberg)
California’s finances are prone to booms and busts because of its reliance on taxing the wealthy, and the “key” to dealing with the volatility is to “stack away as much money as you can and pay off as much debt as you can,” Newsom told reporters. “That’s about building resiliency.”

The moves continue the work under Brown to curb the growth in California’s prodigious pension and retiree health liabilities, which tally $256 billion, budget documents show.

Even as California enjoys rising revenue and surpluses amid an economic boom, pressures to meet promises made years ago continue to mount. The required CalPERS payment for the next fiscal year is more than double the amount a decade ago.

The Democrat would also give school districts relief from their pension payments– $3 billion. This would provide “immediate relief” and reduce their contribution rates by half a percentage point, according to budget documents. California school districts face significant financial obstacles partly because of rising retirement costs, Moody’s Investors Service said.

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com...111-story.html
Quote:
Editorial | Gov. Newsom's pension paydown plan: Part smart, part is scary.

Spoiler:
One of the best ideas in the budget Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled Thursday was his plan to give $3 billion to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and $2.9 billion over four years to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System to pay down unfunded pension liabilities for state workers and teachers estimated to be $162 billion.

Instead of using the state’s projected $21.5 billion surplus to launch new programs that would be unaffordable when a recession hit and revenue plunged, Newsom wants to use a huge chunk to strengthen the state’s long-term fiscal picture. That’s smart. It’s akin to a family that came into a windfall choosing to use part of it to pay down its credit-card debt.

But Newsom’s proposal to also give school districts $3 billion to directly meet their pension obligations isn’t a policy slam dunk at all. It amounts to a back-door increase of $3 billion in future state education budgets. It could set a precedent under which districts struggling with the enormous cost of pensions would expect additional help year after year. As tight as many school district budgets are now, they will be even harder hit in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years when two more increases kick in for required CalSTRS contributions.

Those increases were part of the bailout of CalSTRS enacted in 2014 by the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown. It required school districts, the state and teachers to steadily increase their contributions from 2014-15 to 2020-21. But 70 percent of the additional annual $5 billion it’s expected to create when fully phased in must come from districts, with the state paying 20 percent and teachers 10 percent. This requirement already has by far the state’s largest district — Los Angeles Unified — in dire straits, on track to spend $2 billion more than it takes in from July 2018 to June 2021. This backdrop is key to the teachers strike expected to begin Monday.

Lawmakers were right to focus on CalSTRS’ long-term health in 2014. But they should have also tried harder to limit the costs of pensions and retiree health care. The bailout may need a bailout.


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Old 01-14-2019, 05:22 PM
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OKLAHOMA

https://www.kjrh.com/news/local-news...ion-recipients
Quote:
Lawmakers push for cost of living increase for state pension recipients

Spoiler:
TULSA, Okla. — It's a fight a decade in the making.

An Oklahoma state lawmaker told 2 Works For You retired state employees, police, firefighters and even teachers have not seen a raise since 2008 in their monthly pension payouts.

Cindy Dunn spent nearly four decades in a Sand Springs classroom.

“Thirty-nine years of teaching is watching children grow---you're going to make me cry," Dunn said. "It's watching children grow up in front of you--is seeing them later when they're adults teaching their children and realizing even though you may not realize it at the time you really were a big part of their life."

She's part of a group of retirees now drawing from their state pension.

There's one problem for Dunn.

She's getting her retirement checks calculated at 2008 levels.

The cost of living has gone up significantly since then.

“At one time in our state our retirement systems were the worst-funded systems in the United States and now we've come a long way and it's time to give back to our retirees who had to sacrifice during the time we were building those systems up," said Rep. Avery Frix, R-Muskogee.

State lawmakers want to give these retirees a permanent 2 percent raise.

“We want to make sure that we keep up with inflation and provide our retirees and senior citizens, their funding. Money that they paid into the system," Frix said.

There's even a push right now for a bigger bump.

“We understand that this isn't just the teachers, this is all state employees, but I think we need to talk at 5 percent (COLA increase) and start from there. I really do because they're kind of in the same boat we are," Dunn said.

Dunn said some retirees are struggling to get by.

“When I see teachers that were my teachers and some of them are still living and they qualify for food stamps. They qualify for Medicare Advantage that's not right," Dunn said.

The Social Security Administration just announced a cost of living adjustment of 2.8 percent for 2019 for people who receive those benefits.


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Old 01-14-2019, 05:23 PM
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OHIO

http://www.cleveland19.com/2019/01/1...nefit-changes/
Quote:
Fire, police retirees file class action lawsuit against pension fund over benefit changes

Spoiler:
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - There is a dramatic development in the battle to regain healthcare for police and fire retirees.

Fire, police retirees file class action lawsuit against pension fund over benefit changes
From all over the state, members have now banded together and filed a class action lawsuit.

One of them is retired Willoughby Fire Chief Alan Zwegat, who says, “The reason I got involved was firefighters and police officers, they made a living out of helping people. Well, now I’m trying to help all of us.”

The fire gear in Zwegat’s study memorializes his 40 years in fire service; the last 11 years as chief in Willoughby. He retired in 2016 with a serious medical condition.

A single sentence in the lawsuit he is part of sums up the effect changes have made on 8,000 retirees saying, “Many retirees having to accept lesser coverage for greater premium costs or greater deductibles.”

He and wife Connie learned of planned changes in their coverage and so, like many others, they went to a meeting and were encouraged. That is, until they tried to get coverage, saying, “It didn’t play out the way it was portrayed. They made it seem like it was going to be equal. Yes.”

What was pitched as cheaper, comparable, and maybe better was more expensive and not comparable at all. Plus, Zwegat’s medical history disqualified him.


Zwegat says, “They forced us into going for our own coverage and because my wife and I sought other alternatives, we don’t even get the stipend.”

The stipend is a cash payment from the pension plan to retirees to offset premium costs.

It gets worse for the Zwegat family. If they travel outside of greater Cleveland, their HMO doesn’t cover them.

So for something as simple as going out of town to visit family or friends, they’ve got to buy travel insurance to be covered.

Alan was asked “It’s almost like the answer is don’t get sick?”

He said, “That’s a great point. Firefighters and police officers they sacrifice a lot of their safety and well being. It’s a young person’s job and when you need insurance most is when you get to the retirees.”


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Old 01-14-2019, 05:24 PM
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https://www.plansponsor.com/study-qu...nefit-economy/

Quote:
Study Quantifies How Much DB Plans Benefit the Economy
According to a report from the National Institute of Retirement Security, “Retirees with DB pensions know they are receiving a steady check despite economic conditions. In contrast, retirees may be reluctant to spend out of their 401(k)-type accounts if their savings are negatively impacted by market downturns.”


Spoiler:
The National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) has released its latest report about the impact defined benefit (DB) plan pensions have on the economy.

According to the report, “reliable pension income can be especially important not only in providing retirees with peace of mind, but in stabilizing local economies during economic downturns. Retirees with DB pensions know they are receiving a steady check despite economic conditions. In contrast, retirees may be reluctant to spend out of their 401(k)-type accounts if their savings are negatively impacted by market downturns.”

“Pensionomics 2018: Measuring the Economic Impact of Defined Benefit Pension Expenditures,” says in 2016, $578.0 billion in pension benefits were paid to 26.9 million retired Americans, including:

$294.7 billion paid to some 10.7 million retired employees of state and local government and their beneficiaries (typically surviving spouses);
$83.0 billion paid to some 2.7 million federal government beneficiaries; and
$200.3 billion paid to some 13.5 million private sector beneficiaries, including $41.8 billion paid out to 3.5 million beneficiaries of multi-employer pension plans, and $158.6 billion paid out to 10.0 million beneficiaries of single-employer pension plans.
Expenditures made out of those payments collectively supported 7.5 million American jobs that paid nearly $386.7 billion in labor income; $1.2 trillion in total economic output nationwide; $685.0 billion in value added (GDP); and $202.6 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue.

According to the study, each dollar paid out in pension benefits supported $2.13 in total economic output nationally. Each taxpayer dollar contributed to state and local pensions supported $8.48 in total output nationally. This represents the leverage afforded by robust long-term investment returns and shared funding responsibility by employers and employees.

“The analysis shows that virtually every state and local economy across the country benefits from the spending when retirees spend their pension benefits,” says Diane Oakley, NIRS executive director. “Pension expenditures are especially vital for small and rural communities where other steady sources of income may not be readily found if the local economy lacks diversity.”

The full report may be downloaded from here.

https://www.nirsonline.org/reports/p...-expenditures/
Quote:
Pensionomics 2018: Measuring the Economic Impact of Defined Benefit Pension Expenditures

Spoiler:
Economic gains attributable to defined benefit (DB) pensions in the U.S. are substantial. Retiree spending of pension benefits in 2016 generated $1.2 trillion in total economic output, supporting some 7.5 million jobs across the U.S. Pension spending also added a total of $202.6 billion to government coffers, as taxes were paid at federal, state and local levels on retirees’ pension benefits and their spending in 2016.

Pensionomics 2018: Measuring the Economic Impact of Defined Benefit Pension Expenditures reports the national economic impacts of public and private pension plans, as well as the impact of state and local plans on a state-by-state basis.

This study finds that in 2016:

$578.0 billion in pension benefits were paid to 26.9 million retired Americans, including:

$294.7 billion paid to some 10.7 million retired employees of state and local government and their beneficiaries (typically surviving spouses);
$83.0 billion paid to some 2.7 million federal government beneficiaries; and
$200.3 billion paid to some 13.5 million private sector beneficiaries.
Expenditures made out of those payments collectively supported:

5 million American jobs that paid nearly $386.7 billion in labor income;
$1.2 trillion in total economic output nationwide;
$685.0 billion in value added (GDP); and
$202.6 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue.
DB pension expenditures have large multiplier effects:

Each dollar paid out in pension benefits supported $2.13 in total economic output nationally.
Each taxpayer dollar contributed to state and local pensions supported $8.48 in total output nationally. This represents the leverage afforded by robust long-term investment returns and shared funding responsibility by employers and employees.
The largest employment impacts occurred in the real estate, food services, health care and retail trade sectors.

The purpose of this study is to quantify the economic impact of pension payments in the U.S. and in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Using the IMPLAN model, the analysis estimates the employment, output, value added, and tax impacts of pension benefit expenditures at the national and state levels. Because of methodological refinements explained in the Technical Appendix, , the state level results are not directly comparable to those in previous versions of this study.


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Old 01-14-2019, 05:28 PM
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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

https://chicago.suntimes.com/politic...lion-pensions/
Quote:
EDITORIAL: How mayoral candidates plan to raise $42 billion for pensions

Spoiler:
Chicago is on the hook for $42 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, which works out to $35,000 for every household, from bungalow dwellers to lakefront swells.

We asked the folks running for mayor where they would find the money.

Not surprisingly, they all called for new or higher taxes on a lot of stuff that won’t be a bother to the average Chicago voter — such as a tax on pot — but won’t solve the problem, either.

EDITORIAL

And who can blame them? We might take evasive action, too, if we were running for mayor.

Our own view, though — safely expressed from the sidelines — is that Chicago’s financial crisis is so severe that another property tax hike is almost inevitable in the next few years. And an expansion of the sales tax is likely, too. All the other solutions are only partial, or unworkable, or could make matters worse.

We generally favor, for example, the legalization and taxation of marijuana, as does every mayoral candidate we asked, except John Kozlar. But nobody can say how quickly a pot tax will come become a reality, or how much money it will really generate, or what percentage of the cut will go to the city rather than the state.


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In the same way, we support building a casino in Chicago and taxing it heavily, but casino revenues can be extremely unreliable, a problem that will grow as online betting takes hold. Chicago can’t count on a take of $300 million a year, which is the estimated tax revenue often cited, and even that sum would only begin to solve the city’s financial problems.

Ultimately, as all the candidates say, the solution won’t be a single tax or levy, but some combination of new revenues, and the challenge will be to settle on the right mix. To their credit, most of the candidates don’t entirely rule out a property tax hike, though you get the sense they’d rather not say that loudly. It would be, as they say, “a last resort.”

We asked the candidates where they stood on eight frequently mentioned proposed sources of new revenue. We also asked them to cite at least one other revenue-generating idea of their own. We have summed up their responses in the accompanying chart.


View this document on Scribd
It’s important to stress, though, that the candidates often responded at length — saying far more than what the chart reflects — and we urge you to read their full answers here.

Where the candidates stand on local taxes is, of course, of the utmost importance to all Chicagoans. Our hope is that this editorial package, presenting and contrasting their views, will give a greater understanding.

Among the potential sources of revenue we asked the candidates to take a stand on, they were in the greatest agreement on the need for a Chicago casino. Twelve of the 14 candidates who responded to our questionnaire said they support the idea, and nobody was opposed. Bill Daley wrote that he is “open to the idea,” and only Amara Enyia took no position.

On the other end of the acceptability spectrum, as expected, nobody was keen on a property tax increase, but their caveats were revealing.

Daley, for one, ruled out a property tax hike in his first year as mayor, and said he would then match “every dollar of increased tax with a dollar of cuts.”

Lori Lightfoot said she would not raise property taxes until the “broken property tax system is fixed.” But given that a new Cook County assessor, Fritz Kaegi, is at work doing just that, it’s conceivable to us that a Mayor Lightfoot at some point could declare that system is fixed and raise taxes.

Garry McCarthy did his opponents one better, politically speaking, by saying he would use surplus tax increment financing funds to give the people of Chicago a $400 property tax cut.

And Paul Vallas offered the most thoughtfully precise answer. He said he would cap property tax increases on homeowners, landlords and businesses to the rate of inflation or 5 percent, whichever is less. This would be part of a more extensive financial strategy by Vallas, which he details on his website, and which includes the city ending an “illegal diversion” of corporate personal property tax revenues.

One surprise to us was the cool reception the mayoral candidates gave to the idea of a commuter tax — a tax on suburban residents who work in the city.

In the last few weeks, we have interviewed several dozen candidates for alderman, as part of our endorsement process, and many of them have praised the brilliance of a commuter tax. But among the candidates for mayor, only one — Bob Fioretti — supports such a tax. Most of the others seem to be of a mind with Toni Preckwinkle, who said it’s “not good public policy.” The fear is that new businesses would choose the burbs over Chicago, and the suburbs would retaliate against commuters from the big city.

As you read the candidates’ answers in full, we urge you to give particular attention to their proposed alternative sources of revenue. Some ideas, such as Dorothy Brown’s proposal to register bicycles to make money, strike us as odd. Others deserve serious consideration. We’re thinking here of Jerry Joyce’s suggestion for a passenger facility charge at Chicago airports.

Just about everybody, we should mention, favors amending the Illinois Constitution to allow for a graduated income tax, which would increase the tax rate for wealthier people.

We’re all in with that one, too, and maybe someday it will happen. But not soon enough.


https://www.scribd.com/document/3973...enue-proposals
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