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    Entries in pensions (41)

    Friday
    Apr212017

    The Week in Public Finance: Ballmer's Data Trove, Grading Pension Health and a New Muni Bond Threat

    BY  APRIL 21, 2017

    This Goes Way Beyond Open Data

    You might not peg former Microsoft CEO and current owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers as a government data geek. But Steven Ballmer stepped into that role in a grand scale this week when he unveiled his privately funded, years-long project to help citizens easily track how government spends their money.

    Called USAFacts, the website contains federal, state and local aggregated data on revenue and spending, as well as on debt, population, employment and pensions. Want to know about pension debt? Two quick searches reveal that unfunded liabilities in state and local retirement systems have more than quadrupled since 2000. At the same time, the median age in the country has increased by 2.5 years.

    As a businessman used to the corporate world, Ballmer wants to make government financial reports more readable. To that end, the site has introduced the first government "10-K report" -- the private sector's version of an annual financial report. It aggregates data from all U.S. governments and gives progress reports on government programs, provides financial balance sheets and gives data on key economic indicators.

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    Friday
    Apr142017

    The Week in Public Finance: Pay to Play, High Investment Fees and the Small Business Credit Crunch

    BY  APRIL 14, 2017

    Pay to Play? Hardly.

    Pennsylvania is going with passive funds. That was the message this week from State Treasurer Joe Torsella, who says he plans to move the state’s $1 billion in actively managed public equity (stock) funds over to index funds within six months.

    Index, or passive, funds are known for their lower fees and lower volatility. Rather than managed by a trader, these funds are built using computer models that are designed to mimic the performance of stock indexes like the S&P 500. Torsella expects the shift to save at least $5 million a year in fees.

    The treasurer’s announcement is part of an effort to return faith in the office after his predecessor left in disgrace amid a pay-to-play scandal. Former Treasurer Rob McCord pleaded guilty in 2015 to federal charges that he used his office to influence future investment deals and other contracts as a way raise cash for a failed gubernatorial bid.

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    Friday
    Mar242017

    The Week in Public Finance: Detroit's Big Pension Plan, Debating the Pension Crisis and Counties Under the Gun

    BY  MARCH 24, 2017

    Detroit Hops on Pension Bandwagon

    Detroit is joining Oklahoma and Kentucky in establishing a pension reserve fund. The fund essentially acts like a savings account; it's a place for governments to set aside money to help with increasing pension costs. In Detroit’s case, the fund will help the city plan for 2024, when pension costs are expected to skyrocket from $20 million annually to $200 million a year.

    Thanks to Detroit's exit plan from bankruptcy in 2014, the city isn't paying the full cost of its pensions right now. A charitable foundation and the city's water and sewer system are shouldering much of those costs until 2023.

    The Takeaway:  Pension reserve funds are still largely experimental. The idea is that they will help buffer a pension system from reduced government payments during times of fiscal stress. Of course, a lot depends on how these reserve funds are cultivated. To be truly effective, they must grow to total much more than the government’s annual pension payment.

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    Wednesday
    Mar082017

    How Refinancing Debt Can Help Pensions

    North Carolina wants to use existing low rates to shore up retiree pensions and health-care debt.
    BY  MARCH 8, 2017

    In the low interest rate environment, states and localities have been saving billions by refinancing old debt. In most cases, the savings have benefited the general fund balance. But in North Carolina, State Treasurer Dale Folwell is making a push to instead use those savings to pay down pension and retiree health-care debt.

    Starting this spring, Folwell plans to refinance “every dollar we possibly can.” He'll ask the General Assembly to divert the savings to the treasurer’s office, where he'll then divvy up the extra dollars: 15 percent goes into the pension fund and 85 percent goes toward retiree health-care debt, which has a larger unfunded liability.

    The approach has garnered rave reviews, but some question just how big a dent any such savings can make in an unfunded liability that in North Carolina totals nearly $38 billion between retiree pensions and health care.

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    Friday
    Feb242017

    The Week in Public Finance: Pensions Protest Bathroom Bills, a Billion-Dollar Showdown in Kansas and More

    BY  FEBRUARY 24, 2017

    Pension Funds Mess With Texas

    The country’s largest public pension systems and investors are pressuring Texas officials not to approve a so-called bathroom bill introduced in January. The legislation targets transgender individuals by requiring them to use the public restroom that aligns with the gender on their birth certificate.

    Pointing to North Carolina, which lost hundreds of millions in business from canceled sporting events, concerts and conventions after its bathroom bill became law last year, the group warned in a letter that Texas could meet the same fate. Already, the National Football League and the NCAA have said that the siting of future events in Texas would be jeopardized if lawmakers move forward.

    The more than 30 signatories on the letter include comptrollers, controllers and treasurers of California, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as major firms such as BlackRock and T. Rowe Price. Collectively, the group represents more than $11 trillion in assets.

    The Takeaway: Threats like these aren't new. Called social divesting, stewards of major pensions have increasingly urged corporate boards in recent years to make policy changes, such as pressuring energy companies to move away from fossil fuels.

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