Pension administrators and policy experts presented success stories, strategies for managing public pensions and tools for collecting data on public pensions across the country at a March 29 CSG eCademy webcast, “The Facts on Public Pensions.” The webcast, which was presented in partnership with the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, introduced the Public Plans Data website, a free tool to compare plans across states and help inform debates about retirement security issues.

Public pensions continue to be a topic of great concern to state policymakers across the country. Struggling from years of insufficient contributions, combined with longer-living retiree populations, many states face mounting public pension liabilities. Understanding how your state’s plan compares to others around the country and having access to reliable data about pension plans are both essential  to making evidence-based policy decisions. This FREE CSG eCademy session, presented in partnership with the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, offers background on the state of public pension systems and introduces a free tool which can be used to inform debates about retirement security issues: Public Plans Data.

Public pensions continue to be one of the biggest fiscal challenges confronting state and local governments. Even before the onset of the Great Recession, many state and local government plans were struggling to meet their pension and retirement health care obligations. While the run-up in the equity markets in recent years might have alleviated some of the fiscal pressures faced by public sector pension plans, there continue to be major challenges ahead on this front. This webinar from the Southern Legislative Conference provides an overview of the latest state pension trends alongside presentations from two SLC states on the specific measures initiated to bolster the funding positions of their plans.

CSG Director of Fiscal and Economic Development Policy Jennifer Burnett outlines the top five issues for 2016, including strategic decisions following modest revenue growth, workforce development, public pensions, federal instability, and health care costs. 

Struggling from years of insufficient contributions, combined with longer-living retiree populations, many states face mounting public pension liabilities without sufficient assets to cover them. But states aren’t sitting idly by. Public pension reform has been a major topic of conversation in statehouses across the country, and was the focus of the CSG Public Pensions and Retirement Security policy academy Dec. 10.

While some states have not yet resolved their public pension problems, Keith Brainard of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators said that the pension outlook for most states is improving—in part due to recent pension reforms.

Last week, after Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger announced that a cash flow problem caused by a deadlock in the state’s budget negotiations would force Illinois to delay its November pension payment, Fitch Ratings--one of the “Big Three” credit rating agencies--lowered the state’s bond rating. For many states, pension reform has been achieved only after long, and often contentious, battles across all three branches of government. To help state leaders better understand how their fellow policymakers are tackling pension concerns, CSG will host a public pension and retirement security policy academy on Thursday, Dec. 10, in conjunction with the CSG 2015 National Conference in Nashville, Tenn. The session will begin with Pensions 101, an overview of pension and retirement security issues facing states.

Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed two bills: one that would have set up a required quarterly schedule for the state to make payments into its public pension fund and another that would have required making a $300 million lump payment into the fund for fiscal year 2016. Democrats argued that these measures were necessary to put the state’s pension fund on the right fiscal track. According to the Wall Street Journal, New Jersey’s pension system serves 773,000 current and retired state workers and is facing a funding shortfall of $37 billion. It also contributes to its fund at one of the lowest levels among all 50 states.

Econ Piggy

The Census Bureau released data from its Annual Survey of Public Pensions today, which provides a financial overview of state- and locally-administered defined benefit pension systems. The report found that earnings on investments for those pension systems increased from $382.2 billion in 2013 to $537.5 billion in 2014 – a 38.6 percent jump. In 2012, earnings totaled just $96 billion.

While the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which regulates private employer retirement plans, does not apply to state and local government retirement plans--a fiduciary duty does. A lower court determining the precise nature of the fiduciary duty state and local governments owe employees under a state law similar to ERISA regulating public retirement plans may look to the Supreme Court’s opinion in Tibble v. Edison International.  In this case the Court held unanimously that employers have a continuing duty to monitor retirement investments and remove imprudent ones.   

Jennifer Burnett, Program Manager for Fiscal and Economic Development Policy, outlines the top five issues in fiscal and economic development policy for 2015,  including job creations strategies, state innovations in health care spending, public pension solvency, and federal funding uncertainty. 

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