Pensions and Politics -- RE Harper Econo

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Pensions & PoliticsWhy Your Taxes Will Skyrocket : 

Pensions & PoliticsWhy Your Taxes Will Skyrocket Richard C. Dreyfuss Senior Fellow

Principles in Practice : 

Principles in Practice “In any conflict between two groups who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.” “In any collaboration between two groups who hold different basic principles, it is the more … irrational one who wins.” “When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.” Source: “the Anatomy of Compromise,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 145 3

Overview : 

Overview Background: Research & Experience Public Pension Primer: Design & Funding Pensions Half-Truths Principles for Pension Reform 4

Managing Pension Liabilities : 

Managing Pension Liabilities THE WALL STREET JOURNAL The Public Pension Crisis August 18, 2006; Page A14 “… the fundamental problem is that public pensions are inherently political institutions.” “… the current public pension system simply isn't sustainable in the long run.” 5

Sources of Pension Problems : 

Sources of Pension Problems Poor Benchmarking Non-Existent Metrics & Unmanaged Risks Politics 6

Poor Benchmarking : 

Poor Benchmarking Pennsylvania public pay and benefits are typically benchmarked only against other public plans rather than the entire marketplace This fosters “financial relativity” Affordability and market trends in the private sector are directly relevant to the public sector 7

#1 Poor Benchmarking : 

#1 Poor Benchmarking Market trends suggest an annual net employer cost of 5% to 7% of payroll is needed to achieve sustainable long-term affordability. Thirty-One Pennsylvania Companies Participating in the 2009 Hewitt Annual Salaried Benefit Survey 8

#1 Poor Benchmarking : 

#1 Poor Benchmarking Survey Results Only 11 of 31 companies (35%) sponsor Defined-Benefit (DB) plans for new hires Among the 765 companies nationally, the result is 37% All 31 companies had Defined-Contribution (DC) plans with an average employer match of $.70 matching an average of 6.1% of payroll Nationally, the results are $.79 and 5.6% Why the transition? The inability of companies to achieve pension costs that are current, predictable and affordable Unaffordable retiree medical liabilities 9

#1 Poor Benchmarking : 

#1 Poor Benchmarking Trends in the Marketplace (Mercer 2008 - National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, ~3,000 employers) 10

#2 Non-Existent Metrics & Unmanaged Risks : 

#2 Non-Existent Metrics & Unmanaged Risks No absolute metrics defining the affordability or reasonableness of costs given the “perpetual life of the government entity” Creates unreasonable risks to taxpayers Actuarial assumptions do not create certainty Little consistency in funding assumptions and funding methods making comparisons most difficult 11

#3 Politics : 

#3 Politics Pensions as political capital Pension Fund Surplus = Benefit Improvements for Participants Pension Fund Deficits = Underfunding by Taxpayers Maintaining or Improving Benefits = High Political Rate of Return Fully and Properly Funding Plans = Low Political Rate of Return 12

#3 Politics : 

#3 Politics Pensions are not well understood Abundance of half-truths Benefit commitments can be over 50 years Funding is easily manipulated Easy to (re)defer costs to the next generation Local and city pension shortfalls are becoming political problems for the state Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allentown 13

Basics of Pension Funding : 

Basics of Pension Funding Pensions should be funded as benefits are earned In the aggregate, obligations should be “paid up” when members retire Employer pension contributions (net of employee contributions) Recurring annual premiums, or the “normal cost” Annual amortization payments Calculation of Unfunded Liabilities The periodic measurement of assets versus accrued liabilities 14

Basics of Pension Funding : 

Basics of Pension Funding Calculation of Unfunded Liabilities (continued…) Unfunded liabilities/surpluses are spread or amortized like a mortgage Amortization payments result from: Experience (gains and losses) Benefit changes Changes in assumption and funding methods Amortization Periods – The concept of the remaining working career If the average age of the workforce is 45 and retirements are assumed to occur at age 60 – then the amortization periods should not exceed 15 years 15

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Understating/Deferring Liabilities : 

Understating/Deferring Liabilities Higher annual investment assumptions Often 8% or more Longer asset averaging periods Up to 5 years often with limits of +/- 30% within the actual market value Longer amortization periods Up to 30 years Often using assumed payroll of members yet to join plan Beyond the average working career of the workforce “Fresh starting” (a new 30 year period) when costs become unaffordable 18

Understating/Deferring Liabilities : 

Understating/Deferring Liabilities Justification “Perpetual life of the government entity” Acceptance of an 80% funding target Invoking the term “actuarially sound” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Public Pensions Cook the Books July 6, 2009 Some plans want to hide the truth from taxpayers. “But the National Association of State Retirement Administrators objections seem less against market valuation itself than against the fact that higher reported underfunding “could encourage public sector plan sponsors to abandon their traditional pension plans in lieu of defined contribution plans.” 19

Why PSERS and SERS Costs will Skyrocket : 

Why PSERS and SERS Costs will Skyrocket Started with Act 9 of 2001 10-year surplus drawdown will cease in 2012. This was done in connection with benefit improvements of 25% for PSERS participants and 25% to 50% for SERS participants. Significant investment losses, other benefit improvements and legislation in 2003 which effectively deferred contributions This is the convergence of politics and unmanaged risk. 20

Combined Estimated PSERS and SERS Employer Costs : 

Combined Estimated PSERS and SERS Employer Costs PSERS SERS TOTAL FY 2009-10 $617M $226M $843M FY 2012-13 $4.2B $1.9B $6.1B FY 2015-16 $5.5B $2.3B $7.8B NOTES: PSERS costs are allocated ~54% at the state level and ~46% at the local level (school property taxes). PSERS projects a funded ratio of 89% in FY 2020. 21

Increasing & Compounding Liabilities : 

Increasing & Compounding Liabilities Trend: Defer liabilities rather than reforming plan design and funding policies PSERS – state & local impact SERS – state impact State Retiree Medical – state impact Local & City Pension – local impact Local & City Retiree Healthcare – local impact School Retiree Healthcare – local impact 22

True Pension Reform Must Satisfy Three Basic Principles : 

True Pension Reform Must Satisfy Three Basic Principles Funding must be current. Benefits should be funded as they are earned and “paid-up” in the aggregate at retirement Achieving a 100% funded ratio Significant private sector pension reforms occurred in 2006. Costs must be predictable. Costs must be affordable. 5-7% of payroll (net of employee contributions) 23

The Five Step Pension Reform Program : 

The Five Step Pension Reform Program 1. Establish a unified DC plan for new members Curtails open-ended liabilities Eliminates long-term commitments on behalf of taxpayers SB 566 (2009) 2. Prohibit pension obligation bonds or other post-employment benefit (OPEB) bonds 24

The Five Step Pension Reform Program : 

The Five Step Pension Reform Program Mandate minimum funding reforms for any newly created liabilities resulting in both pension and OPEB plans For actives – maximum funding period is the average remaining working career of recipients. For retirees – 1-year funding period (no remaining working career). Permit asset averaging of up to 3 years subject to a 90% to 110% corridor test against the market value of assets. No benefit improvements permitted if the result of such improvements causes the funded ratio to fall below 90%. 25

The Five Step Pension Reform Program : 

The Five Step Pension Reform Program 4. Consider modifying unearned pension benefits (if legal and feasible) Reduced formula Redefinition of eligible earnings Increasing the normal retirement age Curtailing early retirement subsidies Eliminating COLAs and Deferred Retirement Option Programs (DROPs) 5. Consider funding reforms only after prior steps are achieved To omit steps 1,2,3,4 ≠ pension reform. 26

Municipal Pension Reform : 

Municipal Pension Reform Enroll new employees in a unified Defined-Contribution plan (SB 566) Standardized reporting requirements Annual valuation required for plans with over 250 lives Establish a common plan year of July 1 For state reporting proposes – establish a uniform set of actuarial assumptions and methods Implement amortization periods which may not exceed the average expected remaining careers of the active workforce 27

Municipal Pension Reform : 

Municipal Pension Reform Amortization payments based upon level payment only Implement asset values limited to a three-year averaging period and subject to a 90% to 110% corridor of the market value Any existing state subsidies will be granted upon successful compliance with these funding reforms No state subsidies to employees entering new DC plan 28

Municipal Pension Reform : 

Municipal Pension Reform Pension obligation bonds or any other form of third–party debt are not permitted No benefit improvements permitted if the result of such improvements causes the funded ratio to fall below 90% Effective career management strategies needed for uniformed employees in latter part of careers - prior to age 62 29

Severely Underfunded Plans (<50%) : 

Severely Underfunded Plans (<50%) >250 Lives: Replace local pension board with certain conditions: No elected public officials No current or former plan members No one who is a potential supplier to the plan Term limits will apply <250 Lives: PMRS assumes plan administration 30

DBs vs. DCs: Cost Analysis : 

DBs vs. DCs: Cost Analysis Some incorrectly compare a new DC plan with actual costs of 5-7% with the estimated deposits into a current or new DB plan DB estimates ignore ad-hoc pension COLAS, and other unplanned future benefit improvements (Act 9 of 2001) Since pension contributions are based upon a uniform rate applicable to all participants, why contribute an estimated 29% into PSERS (or SERS) for new hires where an actual cost of 5-7% could apply in a new DC arrangement? Current normal costs (after member contributions): PSERS (7.35%) and SERS (8.42%) 31

Ten Pension Policy Questions : 

Ten Pension Policy Questions How does deferring pension liabilities make future liabilities more affordable? Why is contributing less into underfunded plans considered reform? What is to prevent additional benefit improvements in poorly-funded plans? If 20-year amortization already defers significant costs to the next generation, why permit 30 years? Why are unaffordable levels of private sector benefit costs considered affordable in the public sector? 32

Ten Pension Policy Questions : 

Ten Pension Policy Questions Why not design plans based upon the next generation of taxpayers’ ability to pay? When will underfunded pension plans achieve a funded ratio of 100%? What is the status of retiree medical reforms and when will these plans achieve a funded ratio of 100%? Given all this, what are the financial incentives to live, work, or invest in Pennsylvania cities? Who will provide the leadership to champion true reform? 33

Non-Reform Reform Ideas : 

Non-Reform Reform Ideas Reforms we don’t need and can’t afford… 34

Defined-Contributions Concerns : 

Defined-Contributions Concerns Participation Rates Member Contribution Rates Investment Diversification Issues Installment Payout Options Disability Provisions Provisions for employees not participating in social security 35

Ending Where We Began : 

Ending Where We Began “In any conflict between two groups who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.” “In any collaboration between two groups who hold different basic principles, it is the more … irrational one who wins.” “When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.” Source: “the Anatomy of Compromise,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 145 36

Questions ? : 

Questions ? Richard C. Dreyfuss Senior Fellow

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