Guest Column written by State Representative Dorothy Pelanda.
On June 10, 2012, KMS Actuaries of Manchester, New Hampshire released a much-awaited $240,000 study of the five Ohio pension systems.
Ohio’s five statewide retirement systems are the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS), the School Employees Retirement System (SERS), the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund, and the Highway Patrol Retirement System. These systems’ assets total more than $165 billion and provide a range of benefits to more than 1.5 million individuals.
The 206-page report concludes that Ohio’s pension system structure is solid, but legislative efforts to enact the retirement boards’ own proposals for restructuring would put the funds in better financial shape.
The report advises that the five pension bills that the Ohio Senate approved in May will greatly assist with helping the retirement systems pay off their obligations within 30 years as required by state law and ensure the solvency of health care.
However, the report goes on to say that adjustments beyond the provisions contained in the Senate-passed bills may be needed because of lower-than-expected returns on investments since the board plans were originally established.
The report also recommends that the systems themselves, not the legislature, should be vested with the power to make cost-of-living adjustments and changes to retirement ages and employee contributions (the Senate bills already give some of these powers to the pension boards except for the PERS Board.)
While these adjustments could mean additional cuts in benefits, giving the retirement boards the immediate power to make decisions such as these would help to decrease the millions of dollars that some experts contend are lost each day in these funds while legislation is pending.
The House declined to consider passage of the Senate bills until the report was released, contending that a quarter of a million dollars had been invested in the study. With its release, the Health and Aging Subcommittee on Retirement and Pensions will begin meeting on July 18 to review the report in its full context and to consider what, if any additional legislative measures, should be taken to shore up the systems.
On July 9, 2012, I was appointed to this Subcommittee.
As your State Representative, and a member of this special committee, I am keenly aware that many of you have deep concerns for the future of your state retirement and health benefits, not only for yourselves, but for your families and loved ones. Please keep in touch with me as we navigate these difficult issues. I shall do the same.
State Representative Dorothy Liggett Pelanda is currently serving her first term as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives after being appointed to serve during the 129th General Assembly. She represents the 83rd House District, which includes Union and Logan counties, as well as most of Marion County.
You can find more information about and contact Pelanda by clicking here.