Better Bottom-Line Fuels Budget Battle
Because of increased revenue, the state of Missouri looks like it is on track for a surplus by the end of the current fiscal year. Great! Now the question is, what to do with it? The House and Senate are going back and forth on what to do with any projected surplus. Hopefully it is not plugged into the operating budget, but anything is possible. Of course, I have a modest suggestion.
How about using some of that surplus to pay off the state’s pension liabilities? The Missouri State Employees Retirement System (MOSERS), for example, has an unfunded liability of more than $3 billion (it is really much larger than that, but for the sake of argument, let’s go with the official numbers). Even if the state moved to a defined contribution (DC) plan immediately, the current liabilities in the pension remain.
Unless there is some kind of economic miracle between now and June 30, the surplus will not be $3 billion. However, a little money invested now can yield large savings in the future. Even using a 4 percent discount rate, a $100 million investment today will be worth more than three times as much in 30 years. It is the same principle as putting a larger down payment on a house. The larger up-front payment will mean lower total spending on the mortgage as a whole. That is a savings for future taxpayers.
A state surplus would be a good thing, but the state has an obligation to use any surplus responsibly. Helping to make sure our pensions are funded is a worthy goal and one worth pursuing.