Fiscal Chairs Retreat

2011 National Conference & North American Summit

Fiscal Chairs Retreat
October 20, 2011

Speakers and Presentations:

  • Moderator Kevin Lembo, State Comptroller, Connecticut
  • Lutz Ziob, General Manager, Microsoft Learning, Washington
    What skill sets and training should the workforce of the 21st century possess and what specific measures can state policymakers introduce to reach this ideal workforce?  Lutz Ziob, General Manager at Microsoft Learning led the discussion on this topic.
  • Steve Buehrer, Administrator/ CEO, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, Ohio
    States across the country are working on negotiating changes to the collective bargaining agreements currently in place with labor unions.  In fact, an important component that springs to the forefront in any discussion of the contemporary workforce involves collective bargaining agreements that states maintain with their employees.  In this regard, a number of governors across the country have entered into negotiations with labor leaders to reach agreement on the best possible scenario for all parties concerned.  What were some of the factors that undergirded the discussions in Ohio?  Is it too early to gauge results in Ohio at this time?  If so, what are the preliminary results of the approach adopted by Ohio?  Steve Buehrer, Administrator/CEO of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, addressed this issue.
  • Senate President Brandon Shaffer, Colorado
    Public pensions are an expenditure category posing complex fiscal challenges in many states.  In recent years, state policymakers in dozens of states – influenced by the depleted fiscal position of many retirement plans dating back to the 2001 recession, the enormous investment losses experienced in the Great Recession and their weak state budget situations—have enacted legislative and other changes to lower expenditures related to public pensions.  These changes include a blend of increased employee contributions and benefit reductions.  Controversially, in some instances, these benefit cutbacks have been extended to lower pension benefits for current and future retirees.  As a result of these modifications, a number of states face legal and other challenges.  What are some of the latest trends related to states cutting benefits to current public sector retirees?  What are the legal implications of these modifications?  How have states that deployed these strategies to lower their overall pension costs fared in the courts?  Colorado Senate President Brandon T. Shaffer addressed this issue and talked about the reforms initiated in his state.

  Download the presentation: "Public Employee Retirement Association Reform in Colorado, 2010-present" in PDF (without audio)

Meeting Summary:

Mr. Ziob began his presentation by noting that in the 21st century, given the given the rapid pace of technological innovation and the ever changing requirements of the modern workplace, it is imperative that states prepare for the more efficient use of technology to scale workforce readiness and instruction to a larger group of job seekers. Much of this learning and instruction will be facilitated by information technology, with online and distance learning offerings likely to become the prevalent form of skills acquisition.

Both Senate President Shaffer and Administrator Buehrer’s presentations dealt with critical aspects of state government operations in their respective states that were influenced by the sobering fiscal realities of the Great Recession.  Senate President Shaffer highlighted the significant pension reforms enacted in his state that began with a bipartisan commitment to solve the enormous challenges followed by specific legislative initiatives to fully fund the state’s pension system over the next 30 years.  In Ohio, Administrator Buehrer elaborated that sobering economic realities required the passage of Senate Bill 5 in an effort to curb expenditures.  Some of its provisions include removing the right of public employees to strike and eliminating the practice of automatic step, or longevity, pay increases.  The bill will face a statewide referendum in November.