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  #1361  
Old 09-14-2018, 10:35 AM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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CONNECTICUT

https://www.ai-cio.com/news/connecti...s-pension-gap/

Quote:
Connecticut Study Group Eyes Possible Ways to Plug State’s Pension Gap
Officials point to state lotto, real estate, and benefits changes to help decrease the $127.8 billion shortfall.


Spoiler:
Legislators on Connecticut’s Pension Sustainability Commission suggested lottery revenue, earnings from state-owned real estate, and changes to state employee benefits as ways that the state could help plug its $127.8 billion pension hole.

“The idea is that they would be dedicated solely to the pension funds,” Rep. Fred Wilms of Norwalk said Monday, reports The Hour.

Wilms, who was appointed to the sustainability commission by House Republican Leader Themis Klarides two weeks ago, also proposed that raising employee contributions, moving new hires into 401(k) plans, and other benefit restructuring in addition to lotto and property proceeds would help as well.

“In exchange for that, the contribution from the state assets would ensure greater retirement security for the pensions,” he said.

The group was established in June during a special legislative session. Its role is to explore the feasibility of puttting state assets in a trust whose appreciation could stabilize Connecticut’s ailing pension system.

“Everybody from the gubernatorial candidates down are talking about some need to find further savings in pensions costs [including non-state assets],” state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a Westport Democrat and the commission’s chair, said.

He told the local news outlet that the taskforce, which has met three times since July, has been determining which state-owned properties might be best to help slow the situation, adding that development, sale, and leasing of these areas could help add to their value.

“If we are to avoid massive deficits in the future, we need to have a frank discussion about retirement benefits, consider their impact on Connecticut, and make structural changes in the way Hartford has been doing business,” Wilms wrote in a recent email to constituents in his district, The Hour reported.
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  #1362  
Old 09-14-2018, 03:21 PM
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DIVESTMENT
CLIMATE CHANGE

https://www.sustainablebrands.com/ne...mate_risk_inve
Quote:
California Mandates 2 Largest Pension Funds Factor Climate Risk into Investments
Spoiler:
Big news from California: The state legislature has just passed a bill, SB 964, that requires two massive pension funds run by the state, the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), to factor in climate-related financial risk and report progress both on that, and towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“This vote was about what we value,” Dan Jacobson, director of Environment California, said in a statement. “California is saying there's nothing we value more than our children and grandchildren — and their inheritance must include clean air and a healthy planet.”

Climate risk is, in simple terms, the risk to businesses, financial institutions, infrastructure and other physical and non-physical assets from climate change. It can range from the obvious — lost value of coastal property due to rising sea levels — to the more hard-to-determine impacts of complex systems, such as crop reductions due to drought.



Hear
Practical Guidance
on the
Task Force for
Climate-Related Financial Disclosures
and its
Implications for Companies
at
New Metrics '18.
“Climate risk is ultimately going to affect every sector of the economy,” Janet Cox, executive director of Fossil Free California, who supported the bill, told Sustainable Brands. “Prudence requires that investors act expeditiously to protect their investments and their beneficiaries from the effects of climate change.”

Over the past few years, climate risk has gone mainstream, as more and more investors, asset managers and others in the financial industry are accepting the conclusion that climate change will impact business operations, and that smart businesses will not only plan for this but report on how they are addressing these potential impacts.

When companies refuse to act, investors and shareholders, increasingly, will. Last year, shareholders at ExxonMobil, the US’ largest oil company, went against the board’s recommendation and voted overwhelmingly to ask the company to disclose the impacts on its business under a 2-degree scenario — something that the oil giant had blocked the previous year; Harvard Business Review called it a “tipping point for climate issues.”

“Part of why the Exxon vote was so high was because Exxon has been in the news for covering up climate change, and that played a role in investor concern about [the company],” Danielle Fugere, president & chief counsel at the non-profit As You Sow, told Sustainable Brands.

Notably, the California bill takes a broad view of climate risk, including “risk that may include material financial risk posed to the fund by the effects of the changing climate, such as intense storms, rising sea levels, higher global temperature [and] economic damages from carbon emissions.” This, Cox believes, will give it real teeth and power.

“The fact that this bill requires them to look at fairly broad-definition climate-related financial risk means that businesses and companies that the funds invest in are going to be on notice,” she said.

California is the largest state in the country, and by some estimates, the sixth-largest economy in the world; thus CalPERS and CalSTRS are the two largest public pension funds in the United States, and among the top 15 globally. That means the impact will be felt widely, as both funds invest heavily outside of the Golden State.

“CalPERS and CalSTRS are seen as national leaders among pension funds, and the kinds of risk that SB 964 requires them to consider are the kinds of risks asset owners and investors are going to have to be dealing with nationally,” Cox said.

Moreover, there’s momentum at the national level. Shortly following the passage of SB 964, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) introduced the Retirement Investments for a Sustainable Economy (RISE) Act in the US Congress. If passed, it would create a mechanism to factor climate risk into investments made on behalf of federal workers' pensions.

The ultimate lesson? Climate risk is a real concern, and building a business that factors it in is now a necessity. Investors, consumers and now governments, increasingly, are all demanding it.
https://www.ai-cio.com/news/gore-cal...opt-esg-focus/

Quote:
Gore Calls on Institutional Investors to Adopt ESG Focus
At PRI annual conference, the former US vice president says ESG investing is needed to combat climate change.


Spoiler:
Former US Vice President Al Gore spoke to the choir Wednesday, receiving loud applause as he told the Principles of Responsible Investing annual conference that investing to combat climate change is part of their fiduciary role.

Gore, speaking to institutional investors at the PRI conference in San Francisco, did not cite any specific economic papers but said that it was now clear from economic research and real-time performance that integrating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into investing is in line with fiduciary duty and best practices.

“The idea that the environment and the economy are in conflict is false,” Gore said. “Decarbonizing goes hand-in-hand with improved economic performance.”

Gore, one of several dozen speakers and panelists at the three-day conference that runs through Friday, has personal investment experience to back his view that ESG investing leads to better investment returns.

He is co-founder of Generation Investment Management, the 14-year-old firm in London that specializes in equity investing with an ESG focus. Generation has around $18.5 billion in assets under management in three equity strategies, and institutional investment consultants have generally lauded the firm for its strong investment returns over the years. Last year, Generation won the CIO Industry Innovation Award for ESG.

While there is still active debate over whether ESG investing leads to better results, Gore’s firm has been able to leap to the top of the ESG investing world. Gore has also produced two documentaries on climate change, adding to his cult-like status in the world of ESG investing.

Gore, who ran unsuccessfully for the US presidency in 2000, warned the 1,200 attendees they could damage the economy and civilization if they did not invest with an ESG focus.

He said the violent storms set to hit different world regions this week—in Hawaii, the southeastern US, and southeast China—are “no coincidence.”

“While oceans are out of sight and mind, they are a key driving force in altering the climate on which we depend,” he said.

Gore said climate change is “the biggest investment opportunity in the history of the world.” He cited as an example the area of energy renewables. Gore said that new jobs are being created in the renewable energy sector faster than in traditional sectors. He noted that there are five times the number of jobs in solar installation than in the coal industry.

Gore, who sits on the board of tech giant Apple, cited the April announcement by the company that it was being powered by 100% renewable energy globally as an example of forward-thinking policies.

The ESG investing advocate said despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, the reality could turn out differently. He said that is because the first time the US could break away from the pact is the day after 2020 Presidential election. He said within 30 days of an election of a new president, America could rejoin the global climate agreement.

“The missing ingredient is political will, and political will is, itself, a renewable resource,” he said.

Gore commended California officials for recent pledges that the state will derive all energy from renewable sources by 2045 and cited Europe as a positive example, noting that the European Commission is clarifying institutional investors’ responsibilities in efforts to strength ESG investing.

He also brought up fossil fuels. While Gore did not comment on whether investors should divest from oil companies, he made a comparison to the great financial crisis. He compared investors and companies exposed to fossil fuels, that Gore says won’t ever be extracted because of the need to limit global warming, to stranded assets during the subprime crisis.

He said back in 2008, bankers sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford to pay them, and then mitigated the risk by attaching “phony insurance” and sold the mortgages on into the market.

“If fossil fuels can’t be put to use, at some point investors will recognize, as they did with subprime, that they are worthless,” he said.
https://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/re...t18/091018.htm

Quote:
NY State Comptroller DiNapoli Statement on Pension Fund's Ranking as
Top U.S. Investor Battling Climate Risk
Spoiler:
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released the following statement today after the Asset Owners Disclosure Project named the New York State Common Retirement Fund as the number one U.S. pension fund, and the third globally, for its work to address climate risk. It was the Fund’s second consecutive ranking as the leading U.S. pension fund on addressing climate issues.

"Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the long-term value of global investors and the Paris Agreement is our best hope to combat it. Whatever President Trump says or does regarding the Paris Agreement, it will not weaken the resolve, both at home and abroad, to make the Agreement’s goals a reality. The fight to rein in rising global temperatures has opened the doors to innovation and opportunity. That’s why I’ve committed $7 billion to sustainable investment, including our $4 billion low emissions index that shifts stock holdings away from the biggest carbon emitters to cleaner companies. It’s also why I continue to speak out when the Fund’s portfolio companies fail to take the steps necessary to adapt to the changing world. Those of us who are working to make the Paris Agreement a reality may take separate avenues, but we share a common goal — to help build the growing low carbon economy. I am proud that the Fund is part of that worldwide effort and proud that our hard work to protect the retirement security of more than one million New Yorkers from climate risk has been recognized and appreciated."

AODP annually rates the world’s largest institutional investors based on their response to climate-related risks and opportunities. Its full report can be found at: https://aodproject.net/changing-climate/


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  #1363  
Old 09-14-2018, 04:51 PM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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GOVERNANCE

https://www.manhattan-institute.org/...rds-11446.html
Quote:
The Politics of Public Pension Boards

ABSTRACT
Most public pension plans are in poor fiscal health. Funding ratios have deteriorated over the past two decades, as the plans accumulated $5.52 trillion in liabilities and set aside only $3.7 trillion in assets in 2015. Thanks to underfunded pensions, state and local governments have had to make greater and greater contributions to pay for their employees’ retirement benefits, at the expense of spending cuts to education, infrastructure, and other public services.

Among the sources of the underfunding malaise are the boards that oversee the pension funds. Boards make decisions about how funds are invested and determine the assumed rate of return on those investments. Unfortunately, the incentives of board members lead them away from protecting employees and taxpayers from major financial risks.

Political appointees to pension boards are responsive to constituencies—such as local industry or the governor’s budget—that steer them away from acting in the long-term interest of the pension fund’s fiscal integrity. But the representatives of public employees and their unions on these boards are also tempted to trade pension savings tomorrow for higher salaries today.

The incentive problem is inherent in the structure of public pension fund boards. The only lasting solution is to replace state-administered, defined benefit pensions with defined contribution pensions, which, by definition, cannot be underfunded. In a defined contribution plan, employee contributions, combined with government employer contributions, would be managed by major money-management firms that are not exposed to political interference.

Defined contribution plans do transfer risk to employees, though no more so than in the IRAs and 401(k)s that are common throughout the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, defined benefit plans also pose risks that are borne both by employees and taxpayers, at the expense of other government programs and services.
full report:
https://www.manhattan-institute.org/.../R-DD-0918.pdf
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  #1364  
Old 09-14-2018, 04:52 PM
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https://www.the74million.org/article...can-help-both/

Quote:
Aldeman: Teachers Need to Build a Nest Egg. Schools Need Teachers to Stay on the Job. Changing Rules on Vesting in Pensions Can Help Both

Spoiler:
’ve never admitted this publicly, but as someone who works on retirement issues, I’m overdue to confess. At my first job at an education policy think tank, I left about six weeks too early. If I had been able to stay another 42 days, I would have been fully vested in my 401(k) plan and my employer would have deposited thousands of dollars into a retirement account on my behalf.

People do this sort of thing all the time, of course, and it’s perfectly understandable. My new job was exciting, and I was going to get a significant salary increase. (For those wondering, the increase did not make up for my lost retirement savings.) Still, I really should have known better. I had co-authored a paper about teacher pensions, and I knew how vesting policies worked.

I suspect there are lots more people like me who make similarly short-sighted decisions.

RELATED
Aldeman: How Have Pension Costs Hurt Teacher Pay? If Contributions Were Still at 2001 Levels, Every Teacher Would Get a 7% Raise Today

In theory, vesting periods could provide an incentive for teachers to stay on the job, at least long enough to qualify for a pension. After all, states and school districts spend a total of $50 billion a year on pension payments, and teachers are increasingly taking those pension payments in lieu of salary increases. But when my Bellwether colleague Kelly Robson and I looked at teacher pension plan financial assumptions, we found the opposite: In their official projections, which are based on years of historical data on teacher behavior, no state assumes that pension eligibility will encourage early-career teachers to stay on the job. Due to long vesting periods and high early-career turnover, about half of new public school teachers won’t qualify for any pension benefit at all. Those teachers may not know about their vesting period, may calculate that their pension benefit is too small, or may simply make life decisions without prioritizing the retirement implications, as I did.

Even after vesting, just 1 in 5 young teachers will stay on the job long enough to receive full benefits at retirement. While the state plans rely on all teachers contributing into the system, they count on having to pay full benefits to only the relatively few teachers who remain on the job, in the same state, for their entire career. The vast majority will leave their years of service without accumulating much in the way of retirement benefits.

RELATED
Aldeman & Marchitello: Skyrocketing Spending on Benefits Hurts Teachers and the Schools That Employ Them. 4 Steps Toward Fixing That

In my case, my employer saved some money when I left; similarly, states save money when teachers leave before qualifying for a pension. But those savings might be smaller than you’d expect. When North Carolina dropped its vesting requirement from 10 years to five, it found that pension contributions as a function of teacher salaries would need to rise just 0.07 percentage points to cover the additional cost of extra retirees deducting benefits from the system. That’s partly due to how back-loaded most teacher pension plans are, and vesting is by no means a guarantee of a decent pension benefit. Still, dropping vesting requirements even lower would help more new teachers start building up their retirement nest eggs faster. (For those curious, I should note that my current employer, Bellwether Education Partners, has immediate vesting, so our team members thankfully don’t have to worry about these issues.)

My situation isn’t perfectly comparable to the experience of teachers; I actually had it better. For one, I was covered by Social Security, so even though my retirement plan came up a little short, I was at least building up Social Security credits during those years. In 15 states, teachers don’t have Social Security to fall back on, and they’re entirely dependent on their state-run pension plans. It seems particularly cruel for those states to limit who can qualify for pension benefits, especially in states like Connecticut, Illinois, and Massachusetts, which don’t offer Social Security and require a teacher to serve for 10 years before qualifying for a pension through the state system.

RELATED
Aldeman: Teachers Have the Nation’s Highest Retirement Costs. But They’ll Never See the Benefits

The second difference is the length of the vesting period. In my situation, my employer had a three-year graduated vesting period, which meant that I qualified for one-third of my employer’s contribution after year one, two-thirds at year two, and 100 percent on my third anniversary. No state offers this sort of graduated vesting cycle to teachers; they all use a “cliff” vesting approach that’s all or nothing. Additionally, in the private sector, federal law requires that employers with retirement plans begin offering some employer contributions within three years, and all employer contributions by year six. With public-sector teacher pensions, in contrast, there are no federal safeguards. Today, 19 states require more than seven years to vest, and 15 states require teachers to stay 10 years to qualify for retirement benefits.

By imposing long vesting requirements, states are systematically delaying the point when teachers can start building their retirement savings. Meanwhile, vesting requirements do not appear to be an effective retention tool, even according to each state’s own estimates. States should get rid of vesting requirements and save young workers from making the same mistake I did.

Chad Aldeman is a principal at Bellwether Education Partners and the editor of TeacherPensions.org. Bellwether was co-founded by Andrew Rotherham, who sits on The 74’s board of directors.


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  #1365  
Old 09-14-2018, 05:14 PM
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ILLINOIS

https://www.heartland.org/news-opini...oblems#new_tab

Quote:
ILLINOIS SCHOOL PRINCIPAL’S RETIREMENT WINDFALL HIGHLIGHTS PENSION PROBLEMS
Spoiler:
The current structure of Illinois’ government pension and retirement plan may allow former Maine Township High School District 207 Principal Audrey Haugan to receive $7.137 million in benefits—almost 20 times more than she paid into her savings.


The current structure of Illinois’ government pension and retirement plan may allow former Maine Township High School District 207 Principal Audrey Haugan to receive $7.137 million in benefits—almost 20 times more than she paid into her retirement savings account.

According to data from the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement Fund, Haugan paid $358,381 into her pension account over 33 years.

Three years after her June 30, 2018 retirement, the former principal may reasonably expect to have collected a total of $377,529 in pension payments if she receives standard payments and cost-of-living increases. After 35 years of cost-of-living adjustments, Haugan will receive an annual pension payout of $164,149, significantly more than she earned while working as a teacher or a principal.

Promises Today, Taxes Tomorrow

Joy Pullmann, a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says the public-pension status quo represents an intergenerational transfer of wealth.

“This sort of thing happens because it's easy for state and local lawmakers to give in to union and employee demands for higher compensation, especially when they can put off the costs of doing so by merely contracting debt that future and not present taxpayers have to pay off,” Pullmann said.

“Essentially, everybody is colluding to scam future taxpayers, who can't defend themselves because they typically aren’t voting yet,” Pullmann said.

‘Unpredictable and Unaffordable’

Defined-benefit (DB) pension plans guarantee employees a set benefit amount upon retirement. In a defined-contribution (DC) pension plan, the employer pays a fixed amount during the course of a worker’s career, and the amount is deposited into a personal account controlled and managed by the employee, similar to 401(k) pension plans enjoyed by workers in the private sector.

Adam Schuster, director of budget and tax research at the Illinois Policy Institute, says DB plans are disconnected from reality.

“One of the fundamental problems with defined-benefit pension systems is that the amount you pay in is not connected to the amount you receive in retirement,” Schuster said. “This makes the system unpredictable and unaffordable. Politicians designed a broken system.”

Schuster says Illinois’ government pension system are unrealistically generous with other people’s money.

“The pensions you see in Illinois are way out of line with what you’d see in the private sector,” Schuster said. “Private-sector workers couldn’t expect to retire with millions if they only put $100,000 away.

“Lawmakers should get out of the retirement game,” Schuster said. “Lawmakers are notoriously bad at handling pensions, because they’re not accountable for the results and don’t have an incentive for long-term financial planning.”

Rude Wake-Up Call Predicted

Pullman says the bill for the DB pension system is going to come due soon.

“Years of running this scam at the local, state, and federal level have given us a hurricane of pension debt that is about to hit the country,” Pullman said.

Schuster says the math does not work out, and taxpayers will be the ones paying the price.

“Illinois governments can’t afford the generous pension systems promised by politicians of the past, and that’s why the systems have been underfunded,” Schuster said. “Pension liabilities are already growing far faster than inflation and personal income, meaning they’re outpacing their funding source. On top of that, the financial pressure of pensions is crowding out core government services at all levels.”

Pay As You Go

Pullmann says lawmakers must stop making promises with future taxpayers’ money.

“What needs to happen is that governments should find the money right now to pay for the spending they want,” Pullmann said. “If they want to make a big expense, like normal people they should save up at least a down payment, just like every other responsible taxpayer must to make a big purchase like buying a house.

“Voters should make them do this, and fuel the outrage they feel at situations like this principal essentially scamming the system legally, to get representatives to pass measures that require it, like balanced budget amendments and debt limits,” Pullmann said.

Suggested Course Corrections

Pullmann says requiring more personal responsibility would help solve the public pension problem.

“Lawmakers at all levels should make individuals responsible for their own expenses to the extent possible,” Pullmann said. “So, instead of offering government pensions and increasing the possibility that people can do what this principal did, they should only pay employees’ salaries and let them use their own salaries to fund their own retirements. Then it would be impossible for people to legally bilk taxpayers.”

Schuster says creating a DC plan for Illinois government employees and reducing existing pension liabilities are the only ways to fix the state’s budget problems.

“Ultimately, the pension crisis in Illinois is reliant on bringing pensions in line with what taxpayers can afford and what can make the system sustainable,” Schuster said. “The only way out of this mess is structural pension reforms, including a constitutional amendment that allows us to reduce current liabilities and personal retirement accounts, 401(k)-style, for all new workers.

“All newly hired public-sector workers must be moved on to mandatory 401(k)-style personal accounts, with an option for existing government workers to control their own retirement as well,” Schuster said. “Ending the defined-benefit system for future workers would ensure that spending on government worker retirement is secure and predictable going forward.”
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Old 09-14-2018, 05:18 PM
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KENTUCKY
Quote:
Kentucky Supreme Court Pension Hearing to Air on State Television
In the second televised high-court case, opponents A.G. Beshear and Gov. Bevin will testify.


Spoiler:
The final hearing of Kentucky’s ongoing pension saga will be broadcast on state television.

Next week, the state’s Supreme Court will determine if a controversial pension reform will become law. Supporting it is Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican. Opposing it is Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat. They present their cases to the court, with the proceedings carried on the Kentucky Educational Television network.

It is the second time that the Bluegrass State’s high court has televised a case with the network.

The officials will testify before seven court justices on September 20 at 10 a.m. from the Supreme Court in Frankfort, the state capital. Kentuckians can watch the one-hour hearing on the network’s KY Channel, KY KET, which is available in most parts of the state. The network will show a replay on KET’s website following the verdict.

It will also be livestreamed on the court and legislature websites, www.ket.org/legislature and https://courts.ky.gov, as the two bodies have been streaming debates for years.

The controversial pension law would put teachers hired after January 1, 2019, into a hybrid 401(k)-style plan instead of the traditional defined benefits pension, while also forcing them to work longer before they can retire. It also puts a cap on how much accrued sick leave teachers can use toward retirement and raises the healthcare contributions for state employees hired between 2003 and 2004.

The changes are part of an ongoing struggle to fix Kentucky’s 31% funded pension program. Facing a $40 billion shortfall, the plan is one of the worst-funded in the country.

The pension package was initially tucked into sewage bill overnight on the last day of the 2018 legislative session, then became law the next day. Beshear contested the bill, and it went to trial. In June, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled in favor of Beshear on the grounds that the bill was not given the proper number of readings and did not receive the majority support from all members of the House. The governor appealed Shepherd’s verdict, bringing the case to the Supreme Court and state television.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is expected several weeks after the hearing.

Beshear and Bevin have each said they will run for governor in 2019.
http://kentuckytoday.com/stories/bes...orm-bill,15134
Quote:
Beshear enters brief on pension reform bill

Spoiler:
FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear on Monday filed his brief for next week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on the constitutionality of the pension reform bill passed by the 2018 General Assembly.


The 130-page document is a reply to the brief by Gov. Matt Bevin, which was filed Aug. 27.


Beshear filed suit against Bevin after Senate Bill 151, which was originally a sewage measure, but was amended to essentially contain provisions of the original pension bill and was approved by a House committee and both houses of the General Assembly in the space of just a few hours.


The suit by Beshear, together with the Kentucky Educational Association and the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police, was filed against Bevin shortly after the governor signed the measure into law in early April.


In his June ruling declaring the bill unconstitutional, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd took issue with the process used to change SB 151 from legislation dealing with sewage to become the public pension reform bill, saying the changed bill did not receive the required three readings on three separate days in each chamber, and that it was appropriations bill, meaning it required 51 votes to pass. The bill only cleared the chamber, 49-46. It easily received the number of votes needed in the Senate.


Shepherd’s ruling did not address whether the bill broke the so-called “inviolate contract” made with public employees when they accepted employment.


Beshear’s brief concentrated on the points Shepherd determined made the bill unconstitutional and where they violated two sections of state law, specifically one statute that requires an actuarial analysis and another that says a fiscal note must accompany the bill.


While the General Assembly can enact legislation that suspends earlier enacted law, known as “a notwithstanding clause” and is something that happens often with budget legislation, such language was not included in SB 151, according to Beshear.

In summing up his brief, Bevins’ General Counsel, M. Stephen Pitt, said, “Based on the outcome of this case, its future will either be a bleak one defined by insolvency, extreme taxation, and maybe even a time when pension checks stop coming in the mail—as they have in places like Prichard, Alabama—or it will move toward a bright one defined by solvent pension systems, low taxes that encourage economic development, and adequate financial resources to pay for both pensions and important government services.”


Beshear summed up his case in the brief filed Monday saying, “SB 151 is government at its worst. The process by which SB 151 was passed violated Section 46 of the Kentucky Constitution. This Court should affirm the decision of the Trial Court and declare SB 151 null and void. In addition, this Court should hold SB 151 unconstitutional and void because it violates Sections 2, 13, and 19 of the Kentucky Constitution and KRS 6.350 and KRS 6.955.” Those are the laws requiring an actuarial analysis and a fiscal note on these types of bills.


The governor’s attorneys have until Sept. 14 to reply to the AG’s brief, and the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Sept. 20.
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Old 09-14-2018, 05:20 PM
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FORT WORTH, TEXAS

https://www.star-telegram.com/news/l...218131845.html

Quote:
As pension vote nears, police association urges City Council to honor its promises

Spoiler:
FORT WORTH
Ahead of next week’s vote on fixing the city’s troubled pension system, the Fort Worth Police Officers Association began its social push Monday by putting out video urging the City Council not to cut retiree benefits.

The minute-long video, paid for by the association, features excerpts from public comments made during a council meeting in recent weeks.

“Integrity is keeping a commitment, even after circumstances have changed,” Bridgette Garrett, the wife of a retired firefighter, can be seen in the video telling the council. “We repaired your streets. Emptied your trash. Answered your phones. Typed your letters. Ran into burning buildings. Arrested your criminals. Maintained your parks. Negotiated your deals. Balanced your budgets. Repaired your computers, prepared your council packages. All of which helped the city of Fort Worth to be named an All-American and most livable city.”

At the end of the video, viewers are asked to “tell the Fort Worth mayor and council that a promise made should be a promise kept” and are provided a phone number to the mayor’s office.

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Cpl. Tracey Knight, a POA representative, said while the association is spearheading and paying for the campaign, “we are advocating for all city of Fort Worth employees, both current and retired.”

“This issue affects all employees and the health of our city. It’s bigger than one department,” she said.

If nothing is done to address the $1.6 billion projected shortfall, the Fort Worth Employee’s Retirement Fund could run out of money by 2048.

On Friday, Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke showed the City Council’s latest proposal that had the city kicking in more money.

The proposal would increase the city’s contribution from $92 million to $110.7 million annually and preserve the cost of living adjustment (also known as a COLA) for retirees. But it would cut the COLA from 2 percent to 1 percent.

Meanwhile, employees would see their contributions increase from $37 million annually to about $50 million annually. Police and firefighters contribute at a higher rate than general employees.

But it isn’t as simple as the City Council giving police and firefighters what they want — the city’s general employees — many of whom won’t receive a COLA — must also vote in favor the plan. A majority of all employees — not just those who vote — must approve the pension fix.

The city has 4,009 general employees with 2,082 hired since 2011. There are 1,710 police officers and 924 firefighters.

Last week, Glenn Balog, who represented general employees on the city’s pension task force expressed doubt about getting them to vote in favor of such a plan.

“Over 2,000 general employees have no COLA at all, “ Balog said last week. “I just don’t see how you would get that vote.”

Knight said they “are simply asking for a fair sharing of the fix” between employees and the city.

RELATED STORIES FROM FORT WORTH STAR TELEGRAM
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“We have been offering for years to contribute more and fully expect to do so,” she said. “With an equitable plan put forward that we can support, the POA will put in the time, money and sweat equity to inform all city employees and advocate for a fair solution.”

She said it doesn’t make sense that the city is experiencing major growth in revenue from businesses, tourists and expansion. yet could cut benefits for those already retired while voting to give a pay raise to City Manager David Cooke.

She said because city retirees do not get social security or healthcare, cutting their benefits can have a detrimental impact.

“Most retirees cannot affect their income due to age and health so they are dependent on the benefit they already paid into for 30-plus years to simply pay their bills and healthcare,” Knight said.

The City Council is set to vote on a pension solution on Sept. 18.

The police officers association has prepared two other videos on the issue, but they are not currently slated for release.

Those videos feature retired Fort Worth officers Angela Jay and Johnny Bell, who were both shot during their police careers.

Jay was shot three times in July 1995 after responding with another officer to a report of shots fired at a south Fort Worth apartment complex. Before turning his gun on Jay, officials say John L. Wheat had shot and killed three children — ages 8, 6, and 20-months-old — and shot three adults, all of whom survived their injuries. Wheat was convicted of capital murder in the youngest child’s death in 1997 and executed in 2001.

Bell was shot three times in January 2013 by a wanted man who had been hiding in a vehicle at a Haltom City auto shop. He returned fire, killing the gunman.

As a result of his injuries, Bell lost vision in one eye and one of his fingers.

“We hope to come to a solution quickly and not release them at all, however, we have a full campaign paid for and will move forward if we must,” Knight said.
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Old 09-14-2018, 05:20 PM
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NEW JERSEY

https://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/...8335c4fef.html
Quote:
Sweeney candid on pensions in push for true fiscal reform

Spoiler:
State Senate President Steve Sweeney’s bipartisan task force has delivered an impressive list of recommendations on how to restore financial responsibility to state government.

With the state straining to pay the interest on $48 billion in bonded debt and facing a $152 billion shortfall in funding government worker pension and retiree health benefits, spending reforms are long overdue.

Sweeney says the recommendations of the N.J. Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup are an alternative — the only one so far — to the state’s current practice of just raising taxes every year. He told The Press editorial board recently that if people “don’t like my plan, fine, give me something, your plan … and if it’s just raising taxes, that’s not a plan.”

He and fellow legislators will make the proposals central to a campaign for true fiscal reform that will include several months of town halls and news conferences around the state. They will give taxpayers their best and perhaps only significant shot at cutting the cost of state government, and progressives a path to finding funds for the investments they seek in New Jersey’s future.

One of the most significant task force proposals would merge schools into districts with grades from kindergarten through 12. About half of the state’s 600-plus districts are educationally fragmented, increasing costs and undermining consistency in curriculum.

Another would cap payouts to public workers for unused sick time at $7,500. Counties would be permitted to levy a sales tax to offset their reliance on property taxes, which might work well for tourism-rich Cape May and Atlantic counties. Assets such as the New Jersey Turnpike would be considered for revenue generation, possibly offering premium fast lanes as is done in Maryland and Virginia.

But the most important proposals are aimed at New Jersey’s biggest and costliest problem — the inability to pay for politicians’ past promises of retirement and health benefits to public worker unions.

On this issue, Sweeney has unusual expertise and credibility for a state leader as a result of his 40-year career with the international ironworkers union and current service as its general vice president.

He said public sector labor unions have made their pensions unsustainable and have targeted for re-election defeat leaders who have sought to fix them instead of just pouring more money into them.

Sweeney’s blunt message to the public unions now: “You’re the problem here. You gamed your pensions, you legislated your pensions, you pushed through things that shouldn’t have been done,” he said. “You didn’t pay for it and you have the gall to stand out there saying, ‘We’ve paid what we were supposed to pay.’ Not true.”

Task force proposals would address the structural problems of the state’s pension and health coverage liabilities.

One would transition state workers to a hybrid retirement benefit, with a pension for the first $40,000 of their earnings and a 401(k)-style account with a guaranteed return for income above that. That’s more than reasonable, considering that New Jersey workers outside of government typically don’t get any pension.

Another would put public workers into health plans rated “gold” under Obamacare, instead of the current plans rated “platinum.” That’s reasonable, since public employees’ coverage while working and in retirement would still be rated “unobtainium” by the vast majority of state residents.

Reasonable spending cuts such as these are the only way to ensure there will be adequate funds for mass transit, education, Medicaid, senior programs and other essential state services.

Raising taxes year after year, with the tax burden already the highest in the nation on businesses and fifth highest on residents, would just put New Jersey’s economy further behind and shrink state revenue sources.

Every year that state leaders fail to address the state fiscal crisis, it deepens and the eventual pain of dealing with it grows. The residents and businesses who will feel that pain should get behind this serous effort to reform state government before its fiscal mess catastrophically worsens.
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Old 09-14-2018, 05:21 PM
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WASHINGTON, DC
METRO

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local...=.9c7676aacea6

Quote:
Metro’s soaring pension costs threaten future service, federal report says

Spoiler:
Metro’s rising pension costs threaten its future operating position, potentially hampering its ability to provide service if the agency fails to rein in unfunded retirement and health-care liabilities, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office released Monday.

The 53-page report raises concerns about Metro’s nearly $3 billion in unfunded retirement and health-care costs, and notes that its $4.7 billion in total pension liabilities represents about 6.5 times what the agency spends annually on salaries and wages.

Metro’s annual pension costs grew by an average of nearly 19 percent from 2006 to 2017, the federal report said, making pensions the agency’s fastest-growing workforce cost as its total labor costs grew about 3 percent a year.

With the scale of the obligations, the report posits that in the event of an unfavorable financial market, Metro could be backed into a corner to cover its obligations. The scale of the pension liabilities means that a drop of less than one percentage point in Metro’s investment return on its pension fund could squeeze its operating budget to the point that the agency would need to reduce service or ask the jurisdictions that fund it to cover the shortfall.


“Due to their relative size, proportion of retirees compared to active members, and investment decisions, these pension plans pose significant risk to [the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s] financial operations, yet WMATA has not fully assessed the risks,” the GAO concluded. “Without comprehensive information on the risks facing its pension plans, WMATA may not be prepared for economic scenarios that could increase its required contributions to an extent that might jeopardize its ability to provide some transit service.”

[Metro must pay $82 million in wage increases to thousands of workers, arbitration panel says]

The GAO warning comes a month after a labor arbitration panel rejected the agency’s proposal to reduce its pension burden by shifting from a defined-benefit to defined-contributions system for future hires. Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans has repeatedly highlighted the pension issue as one of the major challenges facing the agency, along with dedicated funding, a need that was fulfilled after Metro secured $500 million in annual dedicated funding from the region.

“I’ve been telling you guys this since I became chairman 2 years ago,” Evans said. “In five to 10 years, the amount of money that we have to pay out of the operating budget to fund the pension will be so high that we won’t be able to run the system.”

He said the arbitration ruling was a major disappointment because it failed to address the problem.

“They kicked it back to us. They said, ‘We don’t want to deal with it,’ ” Evans said. “We’re stuck with the same old pension system. . . . The arbitrator was our last resort.”

Evans said the best way to deal with the problem would be for the federal government to assume the unfunded liability, as it did when it took over the District government’s pension liability during the city’s financial crisis in the 1990s.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), whose office pushed for the GAO report’s release, said that pensions are among the “pressing financial issues facing Metro.”


“Every change in decimals has costlier consequences, and we’re going to have to look at that,” Connolly said. “All parties have to recognize that this is not sustainable going forward. And we’re going to have to wrestle with that issue.”

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who supports switching to a less-generous pension plan for future hires, said she intends to include the proposal in a revised version of a Metro reform bill that she will introduce this week.

“How many times do we have to ask the same question and expect to get a different answer?” Comstock said in a statement. “Metro’s liabilities are unsustainable and fundamental changes need to be made. We have had nearly 40 different reports on Metro from the past decade telling us that. This report took over a year and a half to complete to say what has been said before.”


[A consultant told Metro what many riders already know: It’s the service that’s driving them away]

The GAO report says that if Metro’s rate of investment return on its pension fund were to decline from 7.66 to 7 percent, for example, the transit agency would have to pay $42 million more into the fund — increasing its annual pension spending from about $161 million to $203 million, leaving the agency in an operational bind.

But Connolly hinted that Democrats in Congress were unlikely to take up the issue of pension reform, a measure that could be seen as anti-union.

He said the battle over pensions should be waged between the unions and Metro management. The shift from defined benefit to defined contributions, he said, represented a “Republican solution.”

The report recommends that Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld order an assessment of the “financial risks” posed by the agency’s pension plans and unfunded liabilities, “including under potentially adverse economic scenarios,” which appears to essentially be a call for a more detailed version of the GAO report.

“In general, WMATA concurs with the findings and conclusions presented in the report and has already taken actions to address a number of issues raised in the recommendations,” Metro wrote in an Aug. 28 letter responding to the GAO’s findings. “With respect to our growing pension liabilities, management is doing all that it can to relieve the pension burden, and will work with our Board and jurisdictions on a long-term solution.”

Metro’s largest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, faulted the GAO report as misleading.

[EDITORIAL: Metro just got handcuffed to a dismal future]

“This is a deceptive report and it’s not the fault of GAO, but of Metro, who provided the information,” union spokesman David Stephen said. “The GAO report is based on the information that Metro gave them, so they are able to manipulate that report into saying whatever it is they want it to say.”

Beyond pensions, the GAO said Metro has failed to develop a strategic plan to guide its hiring and recommends that it develop a plan that explains its direction and uses data to lay out the “critical skill and competencies” it needs in its workforce.

Further, Metro should develop mechanisms to make sure supervisors conduct thorough employee performance reviews, and do so in a consistent and timely way. The report also calls for consistency in the agency’s workplace goals, including employee “performance objectives” that align with its larger agency goals.

Finally, it calls for Wiedefeld to institute a process for tracking employees’ progress toward carrying out those initiatives.

[Metro gets third and final ‘yes’ on dedicated funding]

The GAO notes that Metro has existing systems to track employee performance but said they fail to hold workers to a larger set of standards. Further, the office said, Metro doesn’t have a handle on whether supervisors are conducting accurate and timely employee evaluations.

“For example, in 10 of 50 performance evaluations we reviewed, we found scoring errors where employees were assigned a performance rating inconsistent with the supporting review,” GAO said. “Without comprehensive policies and procedures or sufficient controls over its performance management systems, WMATA lacks tools and information to move employees toward achieving WMATA’s strategic goals.”

Connolly said the finding underscores how a “culture of mediocrity has been allowed to descend on Metro.”


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Old 09-14-2018, 05:22 PM
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ILLINOIS

https://madisonrecord.com/stories/51...candidates-say
Quote:
Pension spiking needs review, House candidates say

Spoiler:
SPRINGFIELD – Two Republican candidates fighting for a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives believe the practice of increasing pay of public sector workers in their final years, so-called pension spiking, should be reviewed.

But both candidates, Mike Babcock of the 111th District and former representative Dwight Kay in the 112th District, are wary of the state getting involved in issues that are often better dealt with at a local level.

The issue of pension spiking was raised by the Republican candidate for sheriff of St. Clair County, Nick Gailius, who is running against the incumbent, Sheriff Rick Watson.

Gailius obtained Watson's pay records under the Freedom of Information Act. They showed his salary within approximately one month before retiring as Cahokia police chief in 2011 at $95,163.60, but his pension was calculated on a last minute boost to $127,462.40. Pension payments are based on 75 percent of last salary, so the spike for the outgoing Watson essentially put his retirement pay at the same level as his salary before the boost.

“The (village) board had to have blindly voted for Watson’s pension without the requisite facts of the requested pension set out before them,” Gailius said in a statement. “Although he did abstain from voting, it did not relieve him from a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the figures used to calculate his pension were correct.”

Watson previously told the Madison-St. Clair Record that Gailius is like a “peeping Tom.”

"I’m about tired of this, to tell you the truth," Watson said. "What has he said that he can do better than me as sheriff?”

Babcock, a Republican, who is running against incumbent Rep. Monica Bristow in the 111th District, supports legislation to reform public pensions at the state level, and also believes local municipalities should not be forced to pay for "pension spiking."

Little has been accomplished by state lawmakers to bring about change in dealing with the state's multiple and massively under-funded pension systems, which squeeze out funding for public services and drive down property values, some researchers say.

Local pension funds are similarly under-funded, with taxpayers often paying four times or more into police, fire and municipal employee pensions than employees contribute into them.

Watson's draw on the Cahokia Police Pension provides example. Annual reports of the pension fund indicate Watson contributed $137,167.01 into it over his career in Cahokia, however, by the end of the second year of his retirement in 2012, he had received more than he put into it.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's agenda that touted pension reform hasn't notched a lot of victories in a Democratically controlled legislature. But, in the most recent state budget, signed in early June, a provision was included to hold local school districts to account for end-of-career pay increases exceeding 3 percent in the worker's later years of employment.

Local school districts can increase the pay but the Teacher's Retirement System (TRS) will not pay anything over 3 percent - that will be left to local taxpayers. It was previously 6 percent.

Babcock told the Madison-St. Clair Record that, when it comes to "pension spiking," he supports state legislation, but that costs cannot always be left to local municipalities.

"It is definitely a concern especially as it contributes to Illinois having the second-highest property taxes in the nation, and it deserves review," Babcock said. "(But) I do not like the state government unnecessarily involving itself at a local level."

He added, "It is definitely worthy of review because there is a serious impact on property tax."

On Watson's pension and his increase in pay, Babcock said, "I cannot imagine the sheriff's performance was so excellent in the last week."

Bristow, of the 111th District told the Madison-St. Clair Record: "I don’t serve St Clair County and don’t have any feedback for you on the situation."

Kay, a former representative, is pursuing a seat in the 112th District against incumbent Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville).

"My understanding of pension spiking...is that (it) has been going on in Illinois for some time," he said.

But Kay wants to focus on what he believes is a bigger issue, the size of the state deficit, which he said has grown from $15 billion in 1994 to now $200 billion. The question is, he says, how to pay the bills down the line.

There is argument over the total deficit. The state says it is $120 billion, while Moodys, the credit rating agency, believes it to be closer to $200 billion.

"The first thing to do is to honestly assess how much we owe," said Kay.


https://illinoisopportunity.org/coal...ns-if-elected/

Quote:
Coalition Of Reformers Refuse Taxpayer Funded Pensions If Elected

Spoiler:
How do you start reforming the nation’s most over promised and underfunded pension system? The first step taken by State Representative Tom Morrison was to refuse his own pension. Serious, independent reformers like Morrison refuse to partake in a corrupt system and reap its benefits at the expense of Illinois residents who are being driven out of their homes due to overbearing property taxes.



Last month, Wirepoints.com unveiled a pension pledge asking candidates to demonstrate leadership and show they are serious about reforming pensions by refusing to accept a legislative pension.



Illinois legislators are some of the highest paid in the nation despite only working part-time. The lucrative pension system is one factor that attracts and creates career politicians.



Homeowners are being betrayed by lawmakers like Representative Conroy (D-Villa Park), Representative Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg), and Representative Sam Yingling (D-Round Lake Beach), who take a taxpayer-funded pension while their constituents’ struggle financially to pay high property tax bills with no real push for reforms.



Legislators like Mussman, Conroy and Yingling continue to pass phony budgets, raise taxes, and vote as they are told by Speaker Mike Madigan.



We deserve independent legislators who will work to save our homes, not just sit by and collect a paycheck as families are being uprooted and seeing their most important investment destroyed.



Look at what candidates and legislators do, not just what they say. Our current representatives have failed us. There is a new coalition of reform-oriented citizen legislative candidates that are willing to take on the fight and have signed the pledge to refuse a taxpayer-funded pension.



Candidates Marilyn Smolenski (R-Park Ridge), Alyssia Benford (R-Bolingbrook), Ammie Kessem (R-Chicago), and Craig Wilcox (R-McHenry), to name a few, have refused to accept a pension if elected.



When candidates and legislators say they are serious about reform. Tell them to prove it. Ask them to sign the Wirepoints’ Pledge rejecting a legislator pension.
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