Lobbyists for the 401(k) industry such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Minnesota’s Center of the American Experiment have been busy exploiting the pension problems of the state of Illinois and the city of Detroit, spreading a “crisis narrative” that goes something like this: Public pensions caused Detroit’s bankruptcy and Illinois’ fiscal problems, public pensions will also cause state and municipal bankruptcies elsewhere in the U.S., therefore public pensions must go.
Proponents of the crisis narrative want public workers put into the same 401(k) retirement system that is so badly failing our friends and family members who work in the private sector. Who would stand to gain from such a move? Not public workers, that’s for sure.
The crisis narrative is highly misleading – particularly in Minnesota. Minnesota has been prudent and disciplined about managing its public pensions and has a history of addressing funding shortfalls before things get out of hand. These remedies have come in the spirit of shared sacrifice by employers as well as retired and active employees. Ratings agencies such as Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s have positive things to say about Minnesota’s pension obligations – which would hardly be the case if Minnesota or its major cities were on the verge of a Detroit-style calamity.
In addition, unlike many states with low – or no – employee contribution, Minnesota has always required public employees to contribute to their pensions. So when you hear someone repeating the crisis narrative, get the facts and set them straight.
Courtesy of Susan M. Barbieri,Communications Officer
Teachers Retirement Association
Public Employees Retirement Association
Minnesota State Retirement System