Public pensions in Louisiana

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Louisiana public pensions
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Pension System
Number of pension systems 4
State pension systems: Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System
Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana
Louisiana School Employees' Retirement System
Louisiana State Police Retirement System
System type: Defined benefit plan
Pension Health (2012)[1]
Fund Value: $24,430,255,000[2]
Estimated liabilities: $43,734,103,000[2]
Unfunded liabilities : $19,303,848,000[2]
Percent funded: 55.86%[2]
Percent funded change: Decrease.svg0.39%[2][3]
Percent funded rank: 46[4]
Pension Fund Members (2012)
Total Members: 358,310[2]
Active Members: 150,503[2]
Other Members: 207,807[2]
Other State Pension Information
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Policypedia
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Pension Policy
Public pensions
State public pension plans
Public pension health by state
Louisiana public pensions are the state mechanism by which state and many local government employees in Louisiana receive retirement benefits. Four separate state-sponsored systems administer benefits to eligible retirees: the Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System (LASERS), the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSLA), the Louisiana School Employees' Retirement System (LSERS) and the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS).[5]

In addition to these, there are several statewide pension systems for which the state proper does not assume financial responsibility. These include:

  • Firefighters' Retirement System
  • Municipal Employees Retirement System
  • Parochial Employees' Retirement System
  • Sheriffs Pension and Relief Fund
  • District Attorneys' Retirement System
  • Assessors' Retirement Fund
  • Clerks of Court Retirement and Relief Fund
  • Harbor Police Retirement System
  • Registrar of Voters' Employees' Retirement System
  • Municipal Police Employees' Retirement System

According to the United States Census Bureau, the state has 21 locally-administered pension systems.[6]

A 2012 report from the Pew Center on the States noted that Louisiana's pension system was funded at 56 percent at the close of fiscal year 2010, well below the 80 precent funding level experts recommend. Consequently, Pew designated the state's pension system as cause for "serious concern."[7]

The funding ratio for the four state-sponsored pension systems decreased from 70.38 percent in fiscal year 2007 to 55.86 percent in fiscal year 2012, a decrease of 14.52 percentage points, or 20.6 percent. Likewise, unfunded liabilities increased from over $10.5 billion in fiscal year 2007 to nearly $20 billion in fiscal year 2012.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

Features

Pension plans

In fiscal year 2012, according to the systems' Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, Louisiana had a total of 150,503 active members in its state-sponsored retirement plans (LASERS, TRSLA, LSERS and LSPRS).[8][9][10][11] Our membership figures divide plan participants into two broad categories: active and other. Active members are current employees contributing to the pension system. Other members include retirees, beneficiaries and other inactive plan participants (usually terminated employees entitled to benefits but not yet receiving them).[22]

The following data was collected from the systems' Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports or Actuarial Valuation Reports. The "percentage funded" is calculated by taking the current value of the fund and dividing by the estimated amount of total liabilities. The assumed rates of return used to calculate fund value varied by system in fiscal year 2012 (see "Rate of return" below for more information). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Pew Research Centers cite a percent funded ratio of 80 percent as the minimum threshold for a healthy fund, though the American Academy of Actuaries suggests that all pension systems "have a strategy in place to attain or maintain a funded status of 100 percent or greater."[23][24] The column labeled "SBS figure" refers to a market liability calculation of the fund by the nonprofit organization State Budget Solutions. This analysis uses a rate of return of 3.225 percent, which is based upon the 15-year Treasury bond yield. The organization calls this a "risk-free" rate of return that would make it easier for states to achieve their pension funding requirements in the future. Since 2006, all private sector corporate pension plans have incorporated market costs into their funding schemes.[25]

Basic Pension Plan Information -- Louisiana
Plans Current value Percentage funded Unfunded liabilities
State figure SBS figure[26] State figure SBS figure[26]
Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System**[8] $9,026,416,000 55.9% N/A[27] $7,131,482,000 N/A[27]
Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana**[9] $13,584,409,000 55.4% $10,955,671,000
Louisiana School Employees' Retirement System**[10] $1,403,464,000 61.6% $873,008,000
Louisiana State Police Retirement System**[11] $415,966,000 54.8% $343,687,000
Firefighters' Retirement System[12] $1,218,618,308 71.66% $482,024,775
Municipal Employees Retirement System[13] $874,442,117 91.65% $79,684,415
Parochial Employees' Retirement System[14] $2,634,701,956 99.01% $26,316,712
Sheriffs Pension and Relief Fund[15] $2,042,809,526 96.86% $66,156,793
District Attorneys' Retirement System[16] $267,941,755 83.20% $54,100,555
Assessors' Retirement Fund[17] $243,797,375 92.93% $18,552,185
Clerks of Court Retirement and Relief Fund[18] $401,136,469 82.05% $87,771,278
Harbor Police Retirement System[19] $11,836,645 55.6% $9,444,666
Registrar of Voters' Employees' Retirement System[20] $68,481,599 73.75% $24,372,274
Municipal Police Employees' Retirement System[21] $1,382,503,860 59.75% $931,247,979
TOTALS $33,576,524,610 61.43% 31% $21,083,519,632 $74,925,079,000
**These are state-sponsored retirement systems; although the remaining systems and funds operate on a statewide basis, the state assumes no financial responsibility for them.

Annual Required Contribution

Annual Required Contributions (ARC) are calculated annually and are a sum of two different costs. The first component is the "normal cost," or what the employer owes to the system in order to support the liabilities gained in the previous year of service. The second component is an additional payment in order to make up for previous liabilities that have not yet been paid for. According to a report by the Pew Center on the States, in 2010 Louisiana paid 84 percent of its annual required contribution.[7][28]

On June 25, 2012, the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) approved a plan to reform the accounting rules for state and local pension funds. These revised standards were set to take effect in fiscal years 2013 and 2014.[29] As a result, ARCs were removed as a reporting requirement. Instead, plan administrators and accountants will use an actuarially determined contribution or a statutory contribution for reporting purposes.[30]

ARC historical data - state-sponsored systems[8][9][10][11]
Fiscal year LASERS TRSLA LSERS LSPRS
Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed
2012 $713,971,279 89.3% $1,127,265,199 100.0% $88,531,775 93.40% $38,052,718 101.5%
2011 $678,123,319 82.3% $1,086,319,774 90.2% $90,345,490 80.71% $36,257,596 101.0%
2010 $585,268,922 83.9% $904,382,657 83.5% $86,928,085 61.31% $34,935,975 84.9%
2009 $492,402,961 99.0% $697,190,561 106.4% $74,305,318 74.98% $20,705,663 96.0%
2008 $456,741,202 115.3% $637,097,695 116.2% $54,526,426 94.94% $16,208,885 116.7%

Historical funding levels

Historical pension plan data - state sponsored systems[8][9][10][11]
Year Value of assets Accrued liability Unfunded liability Funded ratio
2007 $25,145,001,000 $35,729,367,000 $10,584,366,000 70.38%
2008 $26,692,070,000 $38,350,804,000 $11,658,734,000 69.60%
2009 $23,806,649,000 $39,657,925,000 $15,851,276,000 60.03%
2010 $23,122,629,000 $41,356,966,000 $18,234,337,000 55.91%
2011 $23,800,372,000 $42,312,417,000 $18,512,045,000 56.25%
Change from 2007-2011 -$1,344,629,000 $6,583,050,000 $7,927,679,000 -14.13%

Rate of return

LASERS and TRSLA presume an 8.25 percent return rate on their pension investments. LSERS and LSPRS presume a 7.5 percent return rate on their investments.[5]

Analysis

Percent Funded Status of Pension Plans
in the 50 States as of November 2013
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Note: The data in this map was compiled from state CAFR reports and Actuarial Valuation documents. Figures reflect a combination of all of the state pension plans.
Funded Ratio of State Public Pension Plans as compiled by State Budget Solutions

According to a 2012 analysis by the Pew Center for the States, most state pension plans assume an 8 percent rate of return on investments.[31] Critics assert that this assumption is unrealistic, citing changing market conditions and significantly lower investment returns across the board over the past several years.[32] When states lower the rate of return in an effort to accurately predict investment earnings, it increases the current plan liabilities, thereby lowering the percent funded ratio and causing the ARC to increase. This is because future plan liabilities are discounted based on the rate of return, so smaller expected investment returns result in larger actuarially accrued liabilities.[33] For example, on September 21, 2012, the Illinois Teachers Retirement System voted to lower its rate of return from 8.5 percent to 8.0 percent. This change increased the state's fiscal year 2014 ARC from $3.07 billion to $3.36 billion.[34] Similarly, when California's CalPERS reduced its projected annual rate of return from 7.75 percent to 7.5 percent in March 2012, it cost the state an additional $303 million for fiscal year 2013.[35]

The 2008 financial crisis had a devastating effect on pension plans nationwide and has resulted in slower economic growth and increased market volatility. In light of this, some market strategists find the 8 percent assumption to be overly ambitious. Stanford University Finance Professor Joshua Rauh stated that using past investment performance in this economic climate was "dangerously optimistic."[36] Advocates for a lower assumed rate of return argue that the standard assumptions could cause pension fund managers to engage in more risky investments and imprudent stewardship of public funds. Further, if pension plans were using more conservative assumptions, such as the 3 or 4 percent assumed rate of return used in the private sector, and the plans grew more quickly than expected, the fund would have a surplus and smaller future ARCs, which would be preferable to using optimistic assumptions and potentially being caught with larger-than-expected deficits.[37][38][39][40][41]

On the other hand, traditional public pension plan advocates argue that the dip observed in recent years is not sufficient proof of a long-term, downward trend in investment returns. According to Chris Hoene, executive director at the California Budget Project, "The problem with [the market rate] argument is there isn’t significant evidence other than the short term blip during the economic crisis that there’s been that shift. It’s a speculative argument coming out of a very deep recession."[36]

The National Association of State Retirement Administrators compiled data on the median annualized rate of return for public pensions for the 1-, 3-, 5-, 10-, 20-, and 25-year periods ending in 2013. While the median annualized rate of return failed to meet the 8 percent assumption that most public pensions assume over the 5- and 10-year periods, it was just shy (7.9 percent) over the 20-year period, and it exceeded 8 percent for the 1-, 3-, and 25-year periods. It is important to note that the NASRA data is reporting the median returns, indicating that even though median annualized returns exceeded 8 percent in the 25-year period, the investment portfolios for half of the examined public pension funds failed to meet an 8 percent assumed rate of return.[42]

In September 2013, the nonprofit organization State Budget Solutions published an analysis of state pension funding levels. In its calculations, State Budget Solutions used a 3.2 percent rate of return, the 15-year Treasury bond yield as of August 21, 2013, to discount plan liabilities.

The research found that in all states combined, state public employee pension plans have only 39 percent of the assets they need to cover their promised payments—a $4.1 trillion gap. According to the report, Louisiana's public pension plans were 31% funded, making it the 43rd most funded state.[43]

Moody's report on adjusted pension liabilities

On June 27, 2013, Moody's Investor Service released its report on adjusted pension liabilities in the states. The Moody's report ranked states "based on ratios measuring the size of their adjusted net pension liabilities (ANPL) relative to several measures of economic capacity." In its calculations of net pension liabilities, Moody's employed market-determined discount rates (5.67 percent for Louisiana) instead of the state-reported assumed rates of return (8.25 percent for Louisiana's largest plan as of July 1, 2011).[44]

The report's authors found that adjusted net pension liabilities varied dramatically from state to state, from 6.8 percent (Nebraska) to 241 percent (Illinois) of governmental revenues in fiscal year 2011.[44]

The adjusted net pension liability for Louisiana's three largest pension funds (LASERS, TRSLA and LSERS) in fiscal year 2011 was ranked the 8th highest in the nation.[44] The following table presents key state-specific findings from the Moody's report, as well as the state's national rank with respect to each indicator.

Adjusted net pension liabilities (ANPL) relative to key economic indicators - Louisiana
Governmental revenue* Personal income State GDP Per capita
State findings 130.2% 18.9% 13.5% $7,296
National ranking 6th 5th 7th 5th
*Moody's uses governmental revenues as reported in each state's consolidated annual financial reports; this includes not only state-generated revenue, but federal funds, as well.[44]

Reforms

Enacted reforms

2013

S.B. 10

Authored by Senator Elbert L. Guillory (R-District 24), S.B. 10 established the funding criteria a statewide retirement system must meet before granting a benefit increase. Governor Bobby Jindal signed the bill into law on June 7, 2013.[45]

2012

H.B. 61

Authored by Representative Kevin Pearson (R-District 76), H.B. 61 provided for the creation of a cash balance retirement plan for certain members of the Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System, the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana and the Louisiana School Employees' Retirement System. The bill proposed to require non-hazardous duty new members of LASERS and postsecondary education new members of TRSLA hired on or after July 1, 2013 to be members of the cash balance plan.[46]

Governor Jindal signed the bill into law on June 5, 2012.[46] On June 28, 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court struck down the cash balance plan provision, ruling that the legislation did not win sufficient votes when it was first passed (because the law would result in increased cost to the state, a two-thirds supermajority was required for its passage).[47]

Proposed reforms

2013

A number of bills proposing the suspension or rescission of the cash balance plan provision of H.B. 61 (2012) were introduced in 2013. The state Supreme Court's ruling striking down the provision rendered all such bills moot.[48][47]

S.B. 5

Authored by Senator Eric LaFleur (D-District 28), S.B. 5 proposed a constitutional amendment to remove the mandatory retirement age for judges. The bill passed the Senate on May 6, 2013, but failed to pass the House with the required two-thirds vote.[49]

H.B. 25

Authored by Representative Vincent Pierre (D-District 44), H.B. 25 proposed to allow for the conversion of unused sick and annual leave to retirement credit for members of the Firefighters' Retirement System. The bill passed the House on April 29, 2013, but stalled in the Senate.[50]

Local public pensions

See also: Local government public pensions

According to the United States Census Bureau, the state has 21 locally-administered pension systems.[6]

Transparency

See also: Public pension disclosure and Governmental Accounting Standards Board
  • Annual reports from the four state-sponsored pension systems are available online.[8][9][10][11]
  • Names of pension recipients are not available.[51] Amounts disbursed to recipients are not available.[51] Both items are exempt under the state's public records law.
  • Investment fund performance reports are available for LASERS, LSERS and TRSL on each fund's website.[52][53][54] LSPRS does not provide investment fund performance reports on its website.[55]
  • Unfunded liabilities are disclosed in annual financial reports.[8][9][10][11]
  • State conflict of interest laws and laws regulating gifts and hospitality apply to the board members and executives of state pension funds. Members of pension board and managers file regular asset disclosure forms.[56]
  • Independent auditors' reports are included in each system's annual financial report.[8][9][10][11]

Recent news

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See also

Additional reading

External links

References

  1. Figures below are compiled by adding up all state pension plans
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 In order to facilitate year-to-year comparisons, only figures from the four state-sponsored retirement systems were included in this summary. For information regarding the performance of other statewide pension systems, please see "Pension plans" below.
  3. This figure is derived by calculating the percent difference between the current year's funding level and the system's percent funded from the prior year.
  4. Rank is relative to the 50 state pension programs. "1" refers to the healthiest pension plan while "50" would be the least well-funded plan.
  5. 5.0 5.1 State of Louisiana, "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2012," accessed November 12, 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Public Employee Retirement Systems State- and Locally-Administered Pensions Summary Report: 2010," United States Census Bureau, April 30, 2012
  7. 7.0 7.1 Pew Center on the States, "Widening Gap Update: Louisiana," June 18, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System, "2011-2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report," accessed November 12, 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana, "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report 2012," accessed November 12, 2013
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 10.8 State of Louisiana School Employees' Retirement System, "Annual Financial Report June 30, 2012 and 2011," accessed November 12, 2013
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 Louisiana State Police Pension and Retirement System, "Annual Report, June 30, 2012," accessed November 12, 2013
  12. 12.0 12.1 Firefighters' Retirement System, "2012 Consolidated Financial Report," accessed November 12, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Louisiana, "Audit Report, June 30, 2012 and 2011," accessed November 12, 2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 Parochial Employees' Retirement System of Louisiana, "Annual Financial Report, December 31, 2012 and 2011," accessed November 12, 2013
  15. 15.0 15.1 Sheriffs Pension and Relief Fund, "Actuarial Valuation as of June 30, 2012," accessed November 12, 2013
  16. 16.0 16.1 District Attorneys' Retirement System, "Actuarial Valuation as of June 30, 2012," accessed November 12, 2013
  17. 17.0 17.1 Louisiana Assessors' Retirement Fund, "Actuarial Valuation as of September 30, 2012," accessed November 12, 2013
  18. 18.0 18.1 Clerks' of Court Retirement and Relief Fund, "Actuarial Valuation as of June 30, 2012," accessed November 12, 2013
  19. 19.0 19.1 Harbor Police Retirement System, "Actuarial Valuation as of June 30, 2010," accessed November 12, 2013
  20. 20.0 20.1 Registrar of Voters' Employees' Retirement System, "2012 Audit Report," accessed November 12, 2013
  21. 21.0 21.1 Municipal Police Employees' Retirement System and Subsidiaries, "2012 Audit Report," accessed November 12, 2013
  22. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, "Pensions Glossary," accessed November 27, 2013
  23. United States Government Accountability Office Report to the Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate, "State and Local Government Retiree Benefits: Current Status of Benefit Structures, Protections, and Fiscal Outlook for Funding Future Costs," September 2007. Accessed October 23, 2013
  24. American Academy of Actuaries, "Issue Brief: The 80% Pension Funding Standard Myth," July 2012. Accessed October 23, 2013
  25. Governing Magazine, " Is There a Plot Against Pensions?" October 14, 2013
  26. 26.0 26.1 State Budget Solutions, "Promises Made, Promises Broken - The Betrayal of Pensioners and Taxpayers," accessed September 20, 2013
  27. 27.0 27.1 Analysis only available for system totals and not individual funds.
  28. Government Accounting Standards Board, "Annual Required Contribution (ARC)," accessed October 17, 2013
  29. Reuters, "Little-known U.S. board stokes hot pension debate," July 10, 2012
  30. State Budget Solutions, "GASB's ineffective public pension reporting standards set to take effect," June 5, 2013
  31. "The Widening Gap Update,” Pew Center on the States, accessed October 17, 2013
  32. The New York Times "Public Pensions Faulted for Bets on Rosy Returns," May 27, 2012
  33. Benefits Magazine "Public Pension Funding 101: Key Terms and Concepts," April 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
  34. Crain's Chicago Business "State teachers pension board lowers expected rate of return," September 21, 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
  35. Huffington Post "California Pension Funds Expect Lower Investment Return," March 14, 2012. accessed October 23, 2013
  36. 36.0 36.1 Governing "Expert: Governments Are Masking Their Pension Liabilities ," October 25, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  37. The Washington Post "Kansas’s pension funding gap just grew by $1 billion," September 6, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  38. Topeka Capital-Journal "KPERS' unfunded liability rises to $10.2B," September 4, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  39. Wall Street Journal "Pensions Wrestle With Return Rates," October 10, 2011. accessed October 23, 2013
  40. The Courant "Promising Too Much On Public Pensions," August 10, 2012. accessed October 23, 2013
  41. Business Wire "NCPERS 2013 Survey: Public Pension Plans Report Increasing Confidence, Lower Costs, Growing Returns," October 22, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  42. National Association of State Retirement Administrators "Issue Brief: Public Pension Plan Investment Return Assumptions," October 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
  43. State Budget Solutions, "Promises Made, Promises Broken - The Betrayal of Pensioners and Taxpayers," accessed September 20, 2013
  44. 44.0 44.1 44.2 44.3 Moody's Investor Service, "Adjusted Pension Liability Medians for US States," June 27, 2013
  45. Louisiana State Legislature, "SB 10," accessed November 12, 2013
  46. 46.0 46.1 Louisiana State Legislature, "HB 61," accessed November 12, 2013
  47. 47.0 47.1 The Times-Picayune, "Louisiana Supreme Court rules Jindal pension plan unconstitutional," June 28, 2013
  48. National Conference of State Legislatures, "Pension and Retirement State Legislation Database - Louisiana 2013," accessed November 12, 2013
  49. Louisiana State Legislature, "SB 5," accessed November 12, 2013
  50. Louisiana State Legislature, "HB 25," accessed November 12, 2013
  51. 51.0 51.1 Sunshine Review, "Public Pension Disclosure"
  52. Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System, "LASERS Investments," accessed November 12, 2013
  53. Louisiana School Employees' Retirement System, "LSERS Investments," accessed November 12, 2013
  54. Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana, "TRSL Investments," accessed November 12, 2013
  55. Louisiana State Police Retirement System, "LSPRS Investments," accessed November 12, 2013
  56. State Integrity Investigation, "Louisiana State Pension Fund Management," accessed November 12, 2013