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amborin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-21-10 08:48 PM
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Can pensions be changed "going forward?"
In Budget Crisis, States Take Aim at Pension Costs

By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH

Illinois raised its retirement age to 67, the highest of any state, and capped public pensions at $106,800 a year. Arizona, New York, Missouri and Mississippi will make people work more years to earn pensions. Virginia is requiring employees to pay into the state pension fund for the first time. New Jersey will not give anyone pension credit unless they work at least 32 hours a week.
We cant afford to deny reality or delay action any longer, said Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois, adding that his states pension cuts, enacted in March, will save some $300 million in the first year alone.
But there is a catch: Nearly all of the cuts so far apply only to workers not yet hired. Though heralded as breakthrough reforms by state officials, the cuts phase in so slowly they are unlikely to save the weakest funds and keep them from running out of money. Some new rules may even hasten the demise of the funds they were meant to protect.
Lawmakers wanted to avoid legal battles or fights with unions, whose members can be influential voters. So they are allowing most public workers across the country to keep building up their pensions at the same rate as ever. The tens of thousands of workers now on Illinoiss payrolls, for instance, will still get to retire at 60 and some will as young as 55.

One striking exception is Colorado, which has imposed cuts on its current workers, not just future hires, and even on people who have already retired. The retirees have sued to block the reduction.
Other states with shrinking funds and deep fiscal distress may be pushed in this direction and tempted to follow Colorados example in the coming years. Though most state officials believe they are legally bound to shield current workers from pension cuts, a Colorado victory could embolden them to be more aggressive.
Colorado pruned a 3.5 percent annual pension increase to 2 percent, concluding that was the fastest way to revive its pension fund, which was projected to run out of money by 2029. The cut may sound small, but it produces big results because it goes into effect immediately. State plans vary widely, but many have other costly features, like subsidized early-retirement benefits, which could likewise be trimmed for existing workers.

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It makes no sense to suggest that an employee who works for the state for a single day has acquired a right to have future pension benefits calculated for the next 20 to 40 years under whatever method was in effect on that single first day of service, states a legal memorandum prepared for the Commercial Club of Chicago, which is concerned that a public pension collapse would badly damage the citys business climate.
The clubs members include senior executives of big companies, like Boeing, Aon, Kraft, Motorola and I.B.M., that have frozen pensions or slowed the rates at which their workers build up benefits.
Some of those cuts set off titanic battles. The most famous was at I.B.M., which changed its pension plan just when many of its older workers were about to earn sharply higher retirement benefits. Aggrieved workers sued, but after a long battle, a federal appellate court found that the cuts were legal.
An employer is free to move from one legal plan to another legal plan, provided that it does not diminish vested interests, or the benefits workers have already earned, wrote Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. He did not distinguish between corporate employers and states.
Colorado is basing its legal defense, in part, on a 1961 state supreme court ruling that said pension cuts for current workers were allowed if actuarially necessary, and will argue that it applies to retirees as well. Other states may not have such legal tools.

snip

In New Jersey, the administration of Gov. Christopher J. Christie recently imposed pension cuts on future hires, but has been quietly looking into whether it could also reduce the benefits that current employees expect to accumulate in the coming years.
Can they change the benefit formula going forward? Sure. Its not etched in stone, said Edward Thomson III, an actuary and trustee of the New Jersey pension system who was asked to offer an opinion on whether New Jersey could adopt the federal pension law the one that covers companies as its governing statute.
A state assemblyman, Declan J. OScanlon Jr., recently introduced a bill to ratchet back a 9 percent pension increase that the state gave most workers in 2001.

I think this will pass constitutional muster, Mr. OScanlon said. Otherwise, I fear the whole system will fall apart. Nine years were out of money.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/business/20pension.ht... pension&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=all
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Autumn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-21-10 09:00 PM
Response to Original message
1. PERA took a beating on Wall Street,
and that is why Ritter did what he did. I don't get this part, "Colorado pruned a 3.5 percent annual pension increase to 2 percent, concluding that was the fastest way to revive its pension fund," Our pension increase which was due in March,was not cut down to 2 percent,it was done away with entirely.
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