Chariho School Parents’ Forum

July 23, 2009

Sometimes timing is everything

Filed under: contract negotiations,Hopkinton,pension,Police,Unions — Editor @ 10:22 pm

Having just gotten back from a trip I got caught up here, then started reading the papers and blogs. First on the list is Anchorrising and Justin’s post on pensions is as timely as ever and brings in another persepective on our pension issue.

We  have been talking about the difference between defined contribution and defined benefit plans as a matter of liability — How much is owned. This article helps to understand the difficulty in paying for it.

As Gene and Lois have said, our private sector 401 k’s are now 201 k’s as a result of the failing market. But public sector pensions also rely on investment income. 

The  AR post is pasted in full below because it’s so darn good (and did I mention timely).

 

Pensions and Politics

Katherine Gregg’s Providence Journal article on Rhode Island’s pension fund losses has an interesting frame. Toward the beginning (emphasis added):

Despite this recent run of losses, state officials say there is no immediate danger for state and local employees and teachers whose retirement checks are drawn from the pension fund, which is made up of a mix of investment earnings, taxpayer contributions and employee contributions. These retired public employees are guaranteed pension payments for life, regardless of the stock market’s performance.

And the final word is given to Stephen Laffey, who (Gregg notes) is “weigh[ing] a return to politics”:

“I have said many times that the only way to save the pension system is to end it and give everyone their money and go to a 401(k) plan … like the people in the private sector,” Laffey said in an e-mail.

The question — over which the unions will shed blood, if necessary (although probably figuratively) — is who bears the risk. When the market shrinks beyond reserves, or simply does not live up to the excessive requirement of more than 8% growth, either retirees manage on less income or the state attempts to tighten the tax vice on a population that already feels overtaxed (with ample justification). Moral considerations aside, the latter option is simply not functional; folks working in the private sector are not going to idly watch their money flow to retirees, many of whom are taking home more than they are, and employers are not going to accept the escalating costs associated with operations in Rhode Island.

Probably the most important point to emerge from the article is that inadequate half-measures aren’t going to cut it:

But the market losses have already eliminated any possibility of taxpayer savings this year from state lawmakers’ decision to curb annual cost-of-living increases and institute a minimum retirement age for all state pensioners. As state budget officer Rosemary Gallogly explained Wednesday: “The rate of payroll determined for FY2010 will not change as a result of pension fund performance.”

Mr. Laffey, in other words, is absolutely correct: The two possibilities are (1) drastic changes or (2) the collapse of the pension system, bringing the state with it.

 

You can comment directly on the  AR blog HERE.

Then there is the ProJo piece on Providence giving us a glimpse of the future (h/t Gene).

This is a concern for Providence since the city is already drawing nearly 62 percent of its obligation to pensioners from its yearly contribution to the system, meaning it is putting money into the system almost as fast as it is being paid out.

And our  baby boomers are just starting to retire – things are going to get worse quickly.

All the writing is on the wall. The only reason the state isn’t in more pain right now is because we put $226m of stimulus money to plug the budget – we still increased spending 12%. Next year we can expect things to be worse. Drastic change is needed and Hopkinton is as good as place as any to start.

Advertisements

2 Comments »

  1. The part that boggles my mind is the general lack of appreciation for the upcoming pension train wreck.

    With the babyboomers working their are lots of people funding funder fewer people’s pension. When they retire there’s not enough working people to pay the bill. Just like with social security, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

    The smartest move would have been to use the stimulus money to convert the pensions to 401K type vehicles, alas that’s been piddled away …

    Comment by Gene Daniell — July 24, 2009 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

  2. On the money Gene.

    Comment by Nate — July 26, 2009 @ 12:53 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: