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Mon Apr 16, 2018, 12:20 PM

A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash

A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner.

Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the stateís largest government pension.

It is $76,111.

Per month.

That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year.

Oregon ó like many other states and cities, including New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut ó is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. Its economy is growing, but the cost of its state-run pension system is growing faster. More government workers are retiring, including more than 2,000, like Dr. Robertson, who get pensions exceeding $100,000 a year.

The state is not the most profligate pension payer in America, but its spiraling costs are notable in part because Oregon enjoys a reputation for fiscal discipline. Its experience shows how faulty financial decisions by states can eventually swamp local communities.
Oregonís costs are inflated by the way in which it calculates pension benefits for public employees. Some of the pensions include income that employees earned on the side. Other retirees benefit from long-ago stock market rallies that inflated the current value of their payouts.

For example, the pension for Mike Bellotti, the University of Oregonís head football coach from 1995 to 2008, includes not just his salary but also money from licensing deals and endorsements that the Ducksí athletic program generated. Mr. Bellottiís pension is more than $46,000 a month.

The bill is borne by taxpayers. Oregonís Public Employees Retirement System has told cities, counties, school districts and other local entities to contribute more to keep the system afloat. They can neither negotiate nor raise local taxes fast enough to keep up. As a result, pensions are crowding out other spending. Essential services are slashed.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/14/business/pension-finance-oregon.html

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 12:34 PM

1. Just another example of the total corruption within the higher education system.

Taxpayers and alumni are a bunch of damn fools!

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 12:36 PM

2. The Bellotti pension is even more annoying than that!

At one point, he divorced his wife. She was able to get a monthly pension from PERS as part of the divorce settlement; it only slightly reduced his pension (not by the same amount of what she gets.)

She now gets just over $4k/month.

I donít think she ever worked in a PERS covered position- itís just the divorce settlement that allows her to get a pension iirc.

They remarried. She still gets her pension.

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 12:36 PM

3. I have studied public pensions and governments ability to pay them.

Most reporting about them is biased and does not give all the facts.

Most are defined benefit plans. In the 90ís many governments did not put in their lawful amount each year thus the investment pool was smaller than it should have been.

The recession of 2008 added to lower returns on investments.

This caused unfunded liabilities to occur.

Governments must make up for the past while paying current amounts.

In 2013 a two tiered system was put in place. Newer employees have a lower benefit formula.

Also over time employees are paying in more for their pensions.

Retirees are living longer but at a point in the near future the costs will level off as the new tiered employees are most of the work force and older retirees pass on.

So governments are paying off the unfunded liabilities over periods of more or less 25 years.

The situation is not as dire as this story states.

Using the high paid pensions as a lead off gets you in the negative mood against pensions but those situations are rare.

The idea is to turn non pension people against those who have them.

If more workers organized and bargained for retirement benefits there would not be so much us vs them to talk about.

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Response to wasupaloopa (Reply #3)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 01:35 PM

9. Thank you.

The media outrage brigade loves to look at the shitty exceptions. For one thing, I'm not sure you can consider a football coach as a "typical" public servant. Most are people like me. After 30 years of service, my pension will be maybe $1200/ month (I've worked for 2 different states).

The Texas ERS lost a lot of money in the Enron scandal as well, though I'm sure they've made up for it.

Both retirement systems that I am in use a rate of return much less than 7%.

Most public employees make a whole lot less than that football coach. Which isn't to say that unfunded pensions are not a problem, they are. But contrary to public belief we are not making a mint while we work, especially when compared to others.

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Response to wasupaloopa (Reply #3)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 01:40 PM

10. Correct on all points

There are outliers like University presidents or head football coaches but the effect (intended or not) of articles like this is to sow ill feelings toward government employees who have earned pensions.

"If more workers organized and bargained for retirement benefits there would not be so much us vs them to talk about."
Can I get an AMEN! to this statement?

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Response to wasupaloopa (Reply #3)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 02:53 PM

11. Thank you. The idea is to turn non-pension people against those who have them.

If we looked at the lifelong income that executives obtain from their stock options; the numbers would be equally large.

We are trained to look much more critically at certain categories of income than others.

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 12:37 PM

4. 2009-2010 was over $800k!

What value he must have provided the Institution. 80-hour work weeks, endless travel and public interface. I'm sure he's earned every penny!

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Response to Anon-C (Reply #4)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 01:17 PM

5. He was an eye surgeon. What do other retired eye surgeons earn on their

savings or receive in a pension in a year.

Surgeons earn a lot of money because you don't want your local tire salesman, even grade school teacher to operate on your eyes. You only have two -- for life.

And an exceptionally educated person like an eye surgeon who works for the government probably earns during his/her working life less than a person with the same training or education who works in the private sector.

It sounds like a lot of money, and top university administrators are generally overpaid, but an eye surgeon who works at a university on the West Coast? Probably not. And the pension may not be out of the ordinary for a person who has his training, education and responsibility -- responsibility being the big item here. RESPONSIBILITY. People who handle responsibility, well, responsibly, get compensated for it.

As I said, this sounds like a lot of money, but it bothers me less than a case in which an ordinary college administrator retires with a big pension after being overpaid for many years while an adjunct professor with a PhD from a good school who could be fired at any time and earned maybe $30,000 - $40,000 for his entire career gets no pension whatsoever.

The system needs revamping, and we need fewer administrators in colleges and universities. The professors should do more administrative work and be paid better.

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Response to Sophia4 (Reply #5)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 01:30 PM

8. Well said, to your last points I agree whole-heartedly! nt

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Response to Anon-C (Reply #4)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 01:18 PM

6. An ophthalmologist heading a medical school probably puts in more than 80 hours per week.

And he has a ton of responsibility. And he's had a fair chunk of training along the way.

It is not uncommon that the heads of the medical schools at state universities are among the highest-paid public employees in the state. I can check Virginia....

2016-17 salaries of Virginia state employees

Virginia's highest-paid employee was the Chief Investment Officer of the Virginia Retirement System (VRS).

The highest-paid person who was not the president of a university of part of the VRS was -- guess what? -- an opthalmologist.

Jayakrishna Ambati

Ambati, Jayakrishna

....
Research Interests

Understanding the Molecular Basis of Macular Degeneration in Order to Hasten the Eradication of Blindness

Research Description

Alu RNA transcripts promote advanced dry age-related macular degeneration:
Geographic atrophy (GA) is the advanced form of dry age-related macular degeneration and is a leading cause of blindness in the Unites States. Currently, there is no FDA approved therapy for the over 1 million Americans with GA. One major goal of the laboratory was to identify novel molecular targets to fight this major unmet health need. We recently identified a class of RNA molecules - Alu RNA transcripts - cause RPE degeneration, which is a critical step in the pathogenesis of GA (Kaneko et al., Nature 2011). We further identified a new protective role for the enzyme Dicer1 whereby it cleaves Alu RNA transcripts, rendering them innocuous. In GA, the abundance of Dicer1 is reduced which leads to accumulation of cytotoxic Alu RNAs and RPE degeneration. This work was highlighted by commentaries in Cell (2011) and Nature (2011), and will serve as the foundation for the rational design of therapeutics for treating this pervasive disease.

Sure. Folks like that are a dime a dozen.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Reply #6)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 01:29 PM

7. Granted! I broke my own rule by concerning myself with what others made, and accordingly made a fool

..of myself.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Reply #6)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 02:57 PM

12. A family member has AMD. Im very happy that this research is being done. Nice to see..

Nice to see that somebody who is actually CONTRIBUTING to SOCIETY is making a good living at it.


As opposed to... Wilbur Ross, shutting down companies, or Steve Mnuchin, making money on foreclosures. Or polluters.

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Response to Yo_Mama_Been_Loggin (Original post)

Mon Apr 16, 2018, 06:27 PM

13. I do have an issue when the system is gamed by spiking pensions right before retirement

People of course are entitled to their pensions after working for decades. I do have an issue when the system is gamed by spiking pensions right before retirement.

Being able to bank unused sick days and cashing them all in right just before you retirre, thus inflating your wages & making that your pension increase substantially isn't how the system was intended. That practice seems to occur only in public employers as private employers wouldn't allow it.

I work salary in manufacturing and we are fortunate to have sick days. The thing is, people only use them when they are, you know, actually sick. They are not extra vacation days and you don't get to keep rolling them over if you aren't sick and don't use them.

There were also instances of local fire departments in the state giving all retirees a promotion to Fire Chief on the last week of work to spike their pensions by thousands of dollars for the remainder of their life. Things like that anger the taxpayers and rightfully so.

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