Missouri’s Ticking Pension Time Bomb? Will the Money be There?
Those who follow this blog are aware of the Show-Me Institute’s interest in Missouri’s 130-plus public pension systems. Tens of thousands of current and retired government employees and their families are depending on their pensions. If these fail, taxpayers will pay one way or another.
Kansas City recently began investigating its pension systems. You may access our previous coverage here and here. Recently, outside consultants to its Pension System Task Force recommended that taxpayers pony up an additional $23 million per year “to make the city’s pension funds more financially stable.” Apparently, the city may now make current and future taxpayers pay for the sins of prior administrations. They are passing the buck onto future generations of taxpayers and their children.
Perhaps greater Missouri should pay heed. According to the Cato Institute’s recent work, Missouri’s public pension plans are grossly under-funded when accounting for reasonable expectations of future economic conditions. Think about the impact this may have on the tens of thousands of state employees and retirees and their families, if and when they are unable to support themselves on their broken pensions. They deserve better. Taxpayers have reason for concern as well. Ultimately, the state loses credibility when it breaks its promises. And under that scenario, everyone is a loser.
Kansas City and Missouri are far from alone. WLBT TV-3 out of Jackson, Mississippi, reports that the state pension fund, the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), is now guided by a 12-member commission. The commission is empowered to:
…examine the financial, management and investment structures as well as determining the legality of modifying the system. All in an effort to dodge a potential problem in the long run.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour notes that PERS is funded at only 60 percent of where it should be and pays out benefits that exceed its structural limits. Kudos to Mississippi for beginning the discussion on sustainability and reform.
Fortunately, some of our sister states have gone pro-active, confronting the looming crisis. The Center for State & Local Government Excellence has just released a study of five successful pension reforms in Iowa; Oregon; Vermont; Gwinnett County, Georgia; and Houston, Texas. Although not perfect, these reform efforts provide some hope that pension stakeholders can meet and iron out their differences. Here’s hoping that Missouri joins the party before midnight strikes. Better late to the party than dead broke on the outside looking in.