2018 DFL Precinct Caucus Resolutions

The Committee of 13 and the Retired Teachers Council 59 encourage retirees to take the following resolutions to the precinct caucuses and move to them for approval. If passed, these resolutions will then help shape the platforms of Minnesota’s political parties and be a guide for legislative candidates running for office and serving in the MN Legislature.

Ready to introduce a resolution at your DFL precinct caucus?

First, download this page so that you can open Web pages and can still copy the resolutions from those below. You can download it as any sort of file, but keep it open and handy.

Next download the DFL precinct caucus resolution form here:

https://www.dfl.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Resolution-Form.pdf

Your resolution will need to be on this form in order to be considered at the caucus.

Once it’s downloaded, open it and keep both the text of this page and the Resolution Form open on your desktop or tablet. You will need to work between them.

Fill in the Resolution Form and print it out. Just copy and paste the language of one of the resolutions listed those below. Then save the form with its own file name for your record–and just in case. Then you can erase the resolution section of the open Resolution Form and reuse it by copying and pasting the next resolution in. You may also need to change the category. Just remember to save the changed form under a new file name.

Don’t forget to take your resolutions with you to your caucus on Tuesday, February 6th at 7:00. Look here to be sure you know the location of your caucus location: http://caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us/

Exercise your democratic rights. Attend your caucus, become a convention delegate, and vote.

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Secure Retirement resolutions

I move that the party support a strong, secure retirement system for our public educators and support the goal of maintaining a defined-benefit pension plan for current and future generations.

 

I move the party support providing an investment of state funding to ensure continued financial stability of the major public pension funds.

 

Early childhood Education resolution

I move the party support funding to offer universal, school-based pre-kindergarten taught by licensed professionals, to all Minnesota 4-year-olds.

 

Higher Education resolution

I move the party support state and federal financial aid grants, loans and tax credits to make public higher education affordable and accessible for every Minnesota resident.

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Commission explores public pension privatization

An organization that spends millions of dollars on a state-by-state effort to privatize public pensions is now playing a significant role in pension discussions at the Minnesota state capitol.

The Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement (LCPR) heard testimony on Wednesday from a University of Minnesota research fellow whose pension policy research is funded in part by the anti-pension Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Also testifying was the executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, whose state’s transition away from pensions to a private, defined-contribution system was partly due to a push from the Arnold Foundation.  

The Feb. 19 LCPR meeting is set to include testimony from a representative of the Pew Charitable Trust. Pew has received $9.7 million from the Arnold Foundation to support its Public Sector Retirement Systems project (http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/projects/public-sector-retirement-systems), according to Governing magazine (http://www.governing.com/topics/mgmt/gov-john-arnold-pensions.html).

The Arnold Foundation has directed nearly $28 million to fund pension policy research nationwide and millions more in personal donations from the Arnolds to support political candidates and ballot initiatives aiming to switch public workers to 401(k)-style plans, according to Governing magazine.

Kurt Winkelmann, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, is leading the inter-disciplinary research project on pension policy design at the University of Minnesota’s Heller-Hurwicz Economics Institute. Winkelmann told the LCPR that his project’s goal is to “provide a solid research foundation for choices” in retirement plan design and take advantage of cutting-edge tools for developing pension policy.

The dual policy goals, he said, are secure retirement income for employees and reducing volatility in taxpayer expense. Referring to a few 2017 news articles debating the nature and extent of Minnesota’s public pension challenges, Winkelmann compared the state’s pension policy to the Bill Murray movie, “Groundhog Day.” An article appears about funding issues, op-ed rebuttals ensue, new funds are allocated at legislature, and the cycle repeats, he said.

Using Arnold Foundation funding, the project will include academic conferences with experts and researchers, quarterly policy briefs (four of which have been published at https://cla.umn.edu/heller-hurwicz/pensions-initiative), three policy forums that will be open to the public, and two workshops to “help policymakers with pension policy,” Winkelmann said.

Sen. Sandy Pappas, D-St. Paul, asked Winkelmann whether he has ever studied Minnesota pensions before, or if this is a new endeavor. She asked whether he intends to familiarize himself with the history and reform record of Minnesota’s pensions. Winkelmann affirmed that you can’t talk about changes unless you spend some time studying how you got from Point A to Point B.

Winkelmann touched on the privatization of public pensions in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, but was unable to answer in-depth questions about those states. He also mentioned the success of pension systems in the Netherlands and Australia and the transparency of those plans. 

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, asked whether Winkelmann believes Minnesota lawmakers are doing something that’s not transparent, noting that reporting requirements for actuarial valuations for pension plans are set in statute. Winkelmann responded by touting a market-based rate (around 4 percent). Pension systems use an assumed rate of return on investment that’s higher than the market rate because long-term average investment return performance is typically higher than 4 percent.

Testifying via Skype was Joseph Fox, executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, which closed its defined-benefit plan to new state employees hired on or after Nov. 1, 2015. From 2010 to 2015, legislators studied pension reform and ultimately made changes to raise the retirement age and eliminate retiree cost-of-living adjustments, among other things. OPERS has not paid a COLA since 2008.

Today, state employees have a mandatory contribution rate of 4.5 percent but may opt to contribute more. The employer contribution for all new state employees is 16.5 percent of payroll. Of this total, only 6 percent to 7 percent goes to the employee retirement account. The remainder (9.5 percent to 10.5 percent) goes into the closed legacy fund.

Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, asked how fees are reported to participants in the defined-contribution plan, who choose from a menu of investment options through Vanguard. Fox said the fee structure is transparent; participants can access fee disclosure in all records and by viewing their individual accounts. Fox said the system’s board was very concerned about fees.

Pappas said that the 2011 DB/DC study commissioned by the LCPR and conducted by the three Minnesota statewide retirement systems should be reviewed for new commission members who might be unaware of the estimated cost of transitioning public employees from the defined-benefit plan to private savings plans. (That cost, in 2011 dollars, was estimated at $3 billion.)

Pappas asked Fox whether Oklahoma has done a cost-benefit analysis of the switch to private retirement plans and if the change was worth it. Fox said the state has not conducted a cost-benefit analysis. The driving force behind the move, he said, was the “changing face of public pensions in the country.” “Reform has been in the air for a decade now,” Fox said.

Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, asked whether the change has affected the ability of Oklahoma’s public sector to attract employees. Fox said his state has been under a hiring freeze, but admitted that new employees are unhappy about the mandatory defined-contribution plan once they become aware of the differences between the benefits of a DB plan versus a DC plan.

The LCPR next meets on Feb. 6, when it will hear from the National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA), the head of the South Dakota Retirement System, and the Minnesota state demographer. On Feb. 19, a representative of the PEW Charitable Trust will address the panel.

Courtesy of TRA Communications

LCPR heard testimony from MMB and our pension plans

The Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement met on Fri., Jan. 12, to hear
financial updates from Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) as well as the
four Minnesota public pension plans.

Commission chair Sen. Julie Rosen said there will be three more meetings before the 2018
legislative session begins in mid-February. Among the topics are the conversion
to defined-contribution or 401(k)-type retirement plans, Minnesota public
employment trends, and a discussion with University of Minnesota senior pension
policy fellow Kurt Winkelmann. Winkelmann, a former managing director at
Goldman Sachs, is leading an inter-disciplinary research project on pension
policy design.

These meetings are tentatively scheduled for the weeks of Jan. 22,
Jan. 29, and Feb. 5.

MMB Commissioner Myron Frans on Friday began his testimony by saying that Gov. Mark
Dayton is “concerned and interested” in accomplishing pension reform. Frans
said that after the February economic forecast is released, the governor plans
to put forward a budget request. Frans said that a big unknown is what impact
the new federal tax bill and tax conformity will have on Minnesota taxpayers.

Frans said that he and his staff spent a significant amount of time with the big
three bond ratings agencies (Moody’s, S&P, Fitch) discussing the state’s
financial status with regard to public pensions. The bipartisan work of the
LCPR, the shared sacrifice ethos and the good investment return of 15 percent
for fiscal year 2017 impressed the agencies. Still, Frans said, they will be
watching Minnesota closely.

“It’s critical that credit agencies see us as responsible,” Frans said, adding that
it’s important that lawmakers deal with pension reform seriously this year once
the February forecast clarifies what resources might be available.

Last year, Dayton vetoed pension legislation when it was rolled into a controversial
measure that would have restricted
local governments from setting minimum wage rates and other
private-sector worker benefits.
On Friday, LCPR director Susan Lenczewski summarized the
bill that came out of the LCPR last year as well as the other bills that
emerged as the session progressed.

The fund directors then provided overviews of their plans’ financial status and
discussed the imperative of passing pension legislation to address
deficiencies. Doug Anderson of the Public Employees Retirement Association
(PERA), Erin Leonard of the Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS), Jay
Stoffel of the Teachers Retirement Association (TRA) and Jill Schurtz of the
St. Paul Teachers Retirement Fund Association (SPTRFA) testified regarding
their efforts to work with stakeholder groups to find agreement on
shared-sacrifice sustainability measures.

This year’s pension commission members are:

  • Sen. Julie Rosen (Chair), R-Vernon Center
  • Sen. Sandy Pappas, D-St. Paul
  • Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls
  • Sen. Nick Frentz, D-North Mankato
  • Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault
  • Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove
  • Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester

 

  • Rep. Tim O’Driscoll, R-Sartell
  • Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake
  • Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth
  • Rep. Roz Peterson, R-Lakeville
  • Rep. Bob Vogel, R-Elko New Market
  • Rep. Mary Murphy, D-Hermantown
  • Rep. Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis

Where Will the Money for Your Pension Come From?

What is a pension?

A pension is what you get upon retirement to live on with some dignity. Most of us understand the Social Security benefit as a partial pension; that is it was meant to help the elderly and disabled survive outside the poor house, a place more like a prison than a retirement or nursing home. Big businesses often provided a real pension for employees to honor their years of service and live in relative comfort in retirement. That was more often the case when a “job for life” was the framework for a middle class of workers in a successful economy. Two things changed that framework: job mobility and greed.

Laissez faire government of the economy at the end of the end of the 19th century allowed a few to become very rich—the robber barons. However a burgeoning middle class of managers also rose and began to demonstrate the underside of the capitalist competitive spirit. While the corporations competed for more of the market, the new middle class competed for more of the money being moved around—bigger houses, motor cars and eventually stock holdings. Meanwhile labor workers were experiencing more company debt rather than rising wages, leading to a labor revolt and the rise of unions. Everyone was coping with the changes that were taking place 100 years ago, yet, everyone seemed to see the solution to these situations in terms of more dollars.

The stock market crash, the following depression and the great drought put the brakes on the flow of dollars however, and of course these events hurt those with access to the fewest dollars the most. The scales were now marked, however; life was all about how many dollars one had. So Social Security came into existence to provide “life” for those hard hit in old age. Life was still valued in dollars however, and more was definitely better.

Following the World War II, the three earner sectors emerged to resume their pursuit of the dollar: the fat cats, who had retained vast sums over the course of the depression and then profited from the war; the professional and management classes, who thrived in the war industry’s enormous growth; and the union workers, many of them soldiers, sailors and fliers returning from combat, now manning factory positions, displacing women and negotiating for pensions more lucrative than Social Security.

These three sectors have been competing for dollars ever since. Greed has been sanctioned in all sectors and has led to unethical and even criminal activity to profit on the labor of others. Only one sector actually creates new wealth however, the workers. The other sectors have always used that created wealth as their source of dollars. Hence, any process that holds money in a lower economic sector becomes the target for the sector or sectors above. Those targets include wages earned, pension funds held and taxes used to pay for public services and infrastructure.

 

So what about our pensions?

Because we are public employees, our pensions all originate in taxes: income and sales taxes, property taxes, and various transactional fees. It is public money, paid for infrastructure and social services available to all, often without cost to the user, rich or poor, and collected from everyone, more or less. There are indeed billions of dollars paid in taxes and used publicly which are unavailable for private wealth in theory and in law. However, public money is not the only or the largest part of the pensions we do or will collect.

Just as businesses did when they still valued their life-long workers, money is invested from day-one on the job until the last check at retirement, over 20 or 30 years or more. Generally some of that investment comes from a percentage paid from the employee’s paycheck, and, nationally on average, more comes from a percentage paid by the employer. While wages may have risen considerably over that time, the value of the day-one investment, enjoying as many as thirty or more years of growth, may actually be worth much more than the last deposited investment from the higher wage. What’s more the amount remaining after any pension payout is still earning more as the invested funds continue to grow, failing a serious market setback.

The “de facto contract” made with the employee upon hiring will continue to be paid out and never be reduced through the employee’s retirement. In the case of public school teachers, that contract is generally with the state government, which must therefore find a way to honor that “contract.” One way the state can do that is by increasing the contribution rate from the teachers and/or the schools. The teachers and/or the schools must eat the costs or more money will have to be provided by public sources, e.g. tax funds. The state has no way to control the invested funds as a financial source however. So the contribution from those invested funds can only be decreased, should the markets perform badly or for long, by raising the contributions from teachers and schools. Those contributions can also be raised by hiring more teachers as well, or raising salaries, but these moves shift the burden to the tax base and so are unwelcome.

So your pension’s value is composed of four parts: what you pay out of your check, what your employer pays above that amount, the interest that accrues on those investments, while you’re working, and the interest earned on what remains uncollected during retirement.

The last two fund contributors reside in a pension fund, a single financial account that is managed and invested by a state agency. For Minnesota teachers, except those in St. Paul who have their own fund, that fund is the Minnesota Teacher Retirement Association (TRA) fund, which is managed by the Minnesota State Board of Investments (SBI). Private investments on behalf of individuals also exist of course. Private investments involve an investment broker sometimes, and a fund manager for any mutual fund in which one invests. If one invests independently, say online, there will be a brokerage fee for every transaction. TRA and SBI management are government employees, not insurance company salespeople, fund managers or Wall Street brokers who take much bigger bites from invested dollars.

Public pension sources of revenue, 1987-2016
Compiled by NASRA based on U.S. Census Bureau data

 

So what’s the breakdown?

Well, it looked like this nationally in 2016, but since 2017 has been a very good year for investments, the 61% will be greater. It’s important to understand that these figures are amounts over 30 years and for the whole nation. Notice that on average, the employer (school districts) contribution is more than twice the employee (teachers/administrators) contribution. In Minnesota, those contribution rates are equal.

If one were excited by the competition for more money, one might look at that $4.3 trillion and salivate. Changing the plan from publicly managed to privately managed doesn’t change that dollar figure. It just breaks it into many smaller, more vulnerable pieces. As it is, changes to the plan are managed through public agencies, in Minnesota, that is the joint Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement (LCPR). That means it is subject to political influence, but not to the profit of account managers, a perilous trade-off perhaps.

Because it is an important part of the TRA legislative proposal, the ratio of employer and employee contribution rates is worth knowing about. Look at the comparison of the three big Minnesota public employee funds with the St. Paul

Employer and employee contribution rates

teachers’ fund compared to the U.S. average. Why they differ and what it means is certainly more complex than this chart describes. There are two things to consider as you look at this though. The blue column are from the deductions from your paycheck. When this column goes up and salaries are flat, or when retiree benefits (not in this chart) go down, jobs in education look unprofitable and the best qualified new teacher candidates may look elsewhere for jobs. This has an impact for every Minnesotan. Furthermore, for the red column to go up, the LCPR has to propose that change in a bill at the Legislature that must pass it into law over the governor’s signature or a two thirds majority. The cost of that change will come from the same source as teachers’ salaries, the tax base. I will leave you to deduce what this means in our current political climate with elections coming after the next session.

Some states, bearing very high employer contribution percentages, have been encouraged to convert or seriously constrain pensions, thus throwing the more of the cost of retirement onto the employees. Historically, Minnesota’s contribution ratios looked as follows.

Employee/Employer contribution rates 1960-2015

While such contribution equity seems fair, the burden of the contribution falls proportionally more heavily on the employee than on the tax base. Tax payers in Minnesota have been getting a good deal on their investment in the state’s teachers.

 

Wrapping up.

As of September 30, 2017, TRA had approximately $21.78 billion in assets. Of this amount, employee and employer contributions only account for less than one third of the funds’ values. Our (currently) healthy investment markets have been contributing more than twice that portion. The guiding wisdom of saving early and often is certainly born out here. In the 23 years from 1990 to 2013, a period that included two big and one small market setbacks, the TRA invested fund was able to well out perform national expectations.

Minnesota TRA pension fund sources 1990-2013

Discussions will be coming up this year on how Minnesota can stabilize the public employee pension obligations. You may wish to be part of that discussion, or at least make your informed opinion known. Beside this blog post, there is much more information online from state agencies and offices and the TRA. The Committee of Thirteen should also be able to help you understand how this might affect you and what we propose to help your situation. Visit www.committeeof13.org and send your questions to info@committeeof13.org.

Jay Ritterson, Committee of Thirteen

Who We Are

The Committee of 13 has represented MPS teachers since 1948

  • This voluntary organization represents both active and retired MPS staff who contribute to TRA
    • Teachers
    • Principals/Administrators
    • Social Workers and Counselors
    • School nurses
    • All licensed staff

The Committee of 13’s work is:

  • To advocate for pension improvements
  • To fight privatizing attacks on teacher pensions that are focused on the elimination of defined pension benefits
  • To lobby for a more realistic “normal retirement age” for active teachers who may currently face a retirement age of 66–67 (as the tasks of teaching grow more difficult)
  • The 2017 legislature is in session
  • The Committee of 13 ‘Watchdogs’ are focused on a fair solution to the TRA fund shortfall that resulted from:
    • Invested funds that earned less interest than expected during the recession years
    • The recipients of TRA funds living an average of 2-years longer than anticipated
  • The ‘Watchdogs’ are insisting on shared responsibility between retired and active members, as well as the employer (MPS District) contributions

Committee of 13 activities include:

  • Funding advocates to educate legislators about our positions on pension legislation
  • Making contributions to candidates for office who support our positions on pension issues, regardless of party affiliation
  • Communicating progress by the Committee of 13

Support needed for the Committee of 13

  • Contributions from active and retired educators are the only source of support for the Committee of 13
  • The Committee of 13 is the only organization that specifically works to maintain a voice for MPS educators in the state-wide TRA plan
  • Approximately 90% of the income goes to:
    • Funding lobbying efforts
    • Political contributions
    • Communication expenses
  • The remainder is used for fundraising, accounting, clerical and other basic operating expenses

Can the Committee of 13 count on you for a small contribution?

  • This has been a year of considerable political change; the Committee of 13 watchdogs will need to be vigilant in support of our interests
  • A small contribution to the Committee of 13 is an investment in defending your future TRA income
  • Please consider writing a check or having a contribution deducted from your paycheck
  • When we all contribute, much can be accomplished in this coming legislative session and the 2018 elections

Who We Are << click to save or view as pdf

The Long and Short of the Interest Return Assumption

 

The Issue

When plans are made at the Minnesota Legislative Commission for Pensions and Retirement, the topic of the investment return assumption or investment rate assumption flares up. This is the assumed rate of interest returning on funds held through the State Bureau of Investments. These investments may be equity stocks, various bonds, real estate or other instruments presumed to increase in value over time.
In order to plan for the future in the pension system, agencies need to predict the number of people who will be working and thus contributing to the invested funds, what the changes in the actual cost of living will be, whether there will be inflation or deflation of the dollar and how much, the number of people retired and retiring, and how much interest will be earned on invested funds. These factors are planned out over 30 or 40 years. To put that into perspective, imagine where you were and what you were doing for Thanksgiving in 2006. How closely do you think you would have predicted the economic changes that occurred in the next ten years?
Left to experts, these exceedingly complex calculations are generally inaccurate in detail, but generally better than 50:50 in broad strokes. By comparison, index fund investments (funds automatically composed of top performing investments) perform somewhat better than the average performance of funds managed by humans. The index funds are like bookies, setting the odds, and the fund managers are like punters, playing them, at a race track.
So, why do pension commissioners care so much about this investment return assumption? Well, while the picture of the future of the funds may be drawn with invisible ink which will only become visible as it becomes history, the drawing is the best guess they have of what the future will be. It is a blueprint of where, when and how much public money – taxpayers’ and workers’ dollars – will be in the fund, and so how healthy they think the fund will be in 10, 20 or 40 years.

The Catch

The health of the Minnesota Teacher Retirement Association pension fund, and all state public employee pension funds in Minnesota, is very important to the State’s finances. The public employees’ pensions are an obligation of the State and the employers; they must be satisfied. If the money is not in the funds to make the mandated payments, the State and school districts, cities, and other employers, and the public employees’ paychecks, all of whom share responsibility, must make up the difference. That means citizens will pay either by tax increases or by loss of jobs and/or the services these jobs provide. This would be very bad.
To avoid this eventuality without contributing more into the funds before disaster strikes, some politicians and many others have an interest in changing the whole system from a defined benefit plan (the State defines what your retirement benefit will be) to a defined contribution plan (the State defines what contribution it will make to your own investments, i.e., there is no state fund.) This change would shift the pension responsibility to each individual.
So here’s the catch: assuming a lower rate of return means assuming that the fund will not grow as much over the next 20 or 40 years; the fund will look more insufficient to meet its obligation to pay our pensions. If that looks like it’s going to be the case, hadn’t the Pension Commission better shift to a plan for which the state will not be held responsible?
Many decisions are made based on the impact the investment return assumption has on the picture of the fund’s future, employer and employee contribution rates, retiree benefits, etc.

The Flaws

There are two flaws to this reasoning however: a big flaw and a huge flaw.
The big flaw is that reasoning based on an investment return assumption is equivalent to reasoning based on the odds of a 40 year long horse race. Yes, the odds may be based on past experience, but that hasn’t ever been a perfect predictor of horse races. That’s why they’re called odds. And the investment return assumption has not been a very good predictor of economic outcomes. Changing the odds doesn’t change the outcome of the race. Changing the investment return assumption will not change the future investment returns on pension funds. It only draws a gloomier or brighter future picture, which is then used by elected officials to make crucial decisions.
The huge flaw is that shifting from a defined benefit (DB) plan to a defined contribution (DC) plan, in an effort to avoid the States’ obligation, would make public sector jobs harder to fill with well qualified workers, and would thereby universally diminish teachers’ and other public sector workers’ quality of retirement. Individuals would be forced to provide their own retirement plans by managing their own investments in a market already presumable predicted to be weaker than is necessary to sustain a fund managed by the State Bureau of Investments is risky at best. Think of the difference between the value of an individual insurance plan and a large group insurance plan. Paying an investment broker or advisor further depletes the amount getting into the fund. And in 2017 the greater part of American workers are woefully under-prepared for any retirement. This bodes very ill for tens of thousands of additional workers in Minnesota should the plans be changed. Furthermore, the State and its funded employers must still find millions of dollars to meet their existing obligations as the pension funds diminish to zero.
Yes, the investment return assumption really matters, even if though it’s just a guess.
This has been the short explanation. I know. It’s not short, but it’s shorter than the long explanation that is attached.

The Long of It

NASRA Issue Brief: Public Pension Plan Investment Return Assumptions, Updated February 2017
(http://www.nasra.org/returnassumptionsbrief)

 

LCPR hears financial update – 9/20/2017

The Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement (LCPR) on Wed., Sept. 20, heard reports from the pension fund executive directors on the financial impact of the recent 15.1 percent investment return and the failure to enact a pension bill during the 2017 session. The commission also heard from the State Economist Laura Kalambokidis and State Board of Investment (SBI) Director Mansco Perry regarding national economic forecasts and the investment return assumption.

MSRS Executive Director Erin Leonard reported that the MSRS General Plan’s estimated funded ratio for FY17 is 81.5 percent (assuming a 7.5 percent investment return) and its estimated deficiency is 4.3 percent of pay. That plan’s funded ratio is projected to decline to 62.6 percent in 30 years if no action is taken to address its deficiency. Had the 2017 pension bill been enacted, the MSRS plan would have a slight sufficiency of 0.35 percent of pay and would have been projected to exceed 100 percent funded by 2047.

PERA Executive Director Doug Anderson reported that the PERA General Plan’s estimated funded ratio for FY17 is 76 percent (assuming a 7.5 percent investment return) and the plan has a slight sufficiency of 0.2 percent of pay if measured using a 30-year amortization period. That plan’s funded ratio is projected to steadily increase to 95 percent in 30 years. Had the 2017 pension bill been enacted, the PERA plan would have a sufficiency of 1.3 percent of pay and would have been projected to attain 117 percent funded by 2047. Anderson fielded questions regarding the recent Bloomberg article which focused the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) accounting numbers. Anderson cautioned the LCPR that the GASB numbers are likely to be very volatile year to year and that they reflect only a snapshot in time rather than the long-term financial status of the plan.

TRA Executive Director Jay Stoffel reported that TRA’s estimated funded ratio for FY17 is 69.1 percent (assuming a 7.5 percent investment return) and its estimated deficiency is 8.53 percent of pay. TRA’s funded ratio is projected to decline to 50 percent in 30 years if no action is taken to address its deficiency. Had the 2017 pension bill been enacted, the plan would have a deficiency of 0.74 percent of pay and would have been projected to attain 95 percent funded by 2047. During discussion of TRA, Rep. Tim O’Driscoll commented that TRA did not come to the table, as other plans did, with sufficient benefit reductions and that TRA was asking for more funding than the other plans. Sen. Julie Rosen, commission chair, added that she appreciated Sen. Dan Schoen’s amendment to put TRA’s provisions back into the bill after they had been removed in committee. Rosen characterized the Schoen amendment as a good faith effort, but commented that it was unfortunately designed to pay for school district costs at a later time. Rosen also said that TRA had been resistant to accepting the 7.5 percent return assumption and stressed that she wanted to achieve that change. Stoffel explained that TRA is asking its actuary to perform a mini-experience study focused on economic assumption to update the actuary’s recommendations. The study is due in November.

SPTRFA Executive Director Jill Schurtz reported that the St. Paul teacher plan’s estimated funded ratio for FY17 as 60 percent (assuming a 7.5 percent investment return and taking into account mortality improvements) and its estimated deficiency is 4.2 percent of pay. That plan’s funded ratio is projected to decline to 52 percent in 30 years if no action is taken. Had the 2017 pension bill been enacted, SPTRFA would have a sufficiency of 0.9 percent of pay and would have been projected to attain 99 percent funded by 2047.

State Economist Laura Kalambokidis warned that due to an aging population, slow labor force growth and ongoing federal fiscal risks, the U.S. economy is expected to have slower than expected economic growth and lower than expected investment returns. She indicated that past performance of the financial markets does not guarantee the same future results. Kalambokidis advised LCPR to recognize that future investment returns may be lower and more uncertain than past returns. She said that getting the discount rate wrong has consequences: setting it too low can result in overstating liabilities and incurring unnecessary costs today while setting it too high will understand liabilities and push costs to future generations.

SBI Executive Director Mansco Perry provided an overview of how SBI’s assets are managed and what SBI returns have been over short- and long-term periods. He showed that SBI return performance ranks in the upper 20 percent of funds. With respect to the investment return assumption, he stated that once the LCPR changes the assumption, he recommends that it stay with that assumption for a minimum of five years because investment forecasts are highly uncertain and do not lend themselves to such precision.

The commission plans to meet again on Oct. 10 or 11.