Vote button trans.png
April's Project of the Month
It's spring time. It's primary election season!
Click here to find all the information you'll need to cast your ballot.




Public pensions in Washington

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Washington public pensions
Flag of Washington.png
Pension System
Number of pension systems 8
State pension systems: Public Employees' Retirement System
Teachers' Retirement System
School Employees' Retirement System
Law Enforcement Officers' and Fire Fighters' Retirement System
Washington State Patrol Retirement System
Public Safety Employees' Retirement System
Judicial Retirement System
Judges' Retirement Fund
System type: Defined benefit plan; hybrid
Pension Health (2012)[1]
Fund Value: $63,127,900,000
Estimated liabilities: $67,825,600,000
Unfunded liabilities : $4,697,700,000
Percent funded: 93.07%
Percent funded change: Decrease.svg0.6%[2]
Percent funded rank: 3[3]
Pension Fund Members (2012)
Total Members: 485,659
Active Members: 289,729
Other Members: 195,930
Other State Pension Information
AlabamaAlaskaArizonaArkansasCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawaiiIdahoIllinoisIndianaIowaKansasKentuckyLouisianaMaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontanaNebraskaNevadaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew MexicoNew YorkNorth CarolinaNorth DakotaOhioOklahomaOregonPennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaTennesseeTexasUtahVermontVirginiaWashingtonWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming
Washington public pensions are the state mechanism by which state and many local government employees in Washington receive retirement benefits. The Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) administers eight separate retirement systems:[4]
  • Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS)
  • Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS)
  • School Employees’ Retirement System (SERS)
  • Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’ Retirement System (LEOFF)
  • Washington State Patrol Retirement System (WSPRS)
  • Public Safety Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS)
  • Judicial Retirement System (JRS)
  • Judges’ Retirement Fund (Judges)

According to the United States Census Bureau, the state has 20 locally-administered pension systems.[5]

A 2012 report from the Pew Center on the States noted that Washington's pension system was funded at 95 percent at the close of fiscal year 2010, well above the 80 precent funding level experts recommend. Nevertheless, Pew designated the state's pension system as needing "improvement" due to its gradually declining funding level.[6]

The funding ratio for the state's pension system increased from 92.88 percent in fiscal year 2007 to 93.07 percent in fiscal year 2012, a 0.19 percent bump. Unfunded liabilities increased from approximately $3.9 billion in fiscal year 2007 to roughly $4.7 billion in fiscal year 2012.

Features

Pension plans

In fiscal year 2012, according to the DRS Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Washington had a total of 289,729 active members in its retirement plans.[7] 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).[8]

The following data was collected from the DRS Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. The "percentage funded" is calculated by taking the current value of the fund and dividing by the estimated amount of total liabilities. The assumed rate of return used to calculate fund value was 7.90 percent in fiscal year 2012. 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."[9][10] 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.[11]

Basic Pension Plan Information -- Washington[7]
Plans Current value Percentage funded Unfunded liabilities Membership
State figure SBS figure[12] State figure SBS figure[12]
PERS Plan 1 $8,521,000,000 69% N/A[13] $3,839,000,000 N/A[13] 6,635 active members
PERS Plan 2/3 $22,653,000,000 99% $127,000,000 143,955 active members
SERS Plan 2/3 $3,100,000,000 100% $3,000,000 51,558 active members
PSERS Plan 2 $180,000,000 114% $(22,000,000) 4,250 active members
TRS Plan 1 $7,145,000,000 79% $1,894,000,000 3,019 active members
TRS Plan 2/3 $7,758,000,000 104% $(280,000,000) 62,338 active members
LEOFF Plan 1 $5,562,000,000 135% $(1,441,000,000) 186 active members
LEOFF Plan 2 $7,222,000,000 114% $(869,000,000) 16,720 active members
WSPRS Plan 1/2 $982,000,000 111% $(97,000,000) 1,066 active members
JRS $3,000,000 3% $101,000,000 2 active members
Judges $1,900,000 52% $1,700,000 0 active members
TOTALS $63,127,900,000 93.07% 49% $4,697,700,000 $64,054,477,000 289,729 active members
**In its calculations, State Budget Solutions employed data from the valuation dated June 30, 2011. The state-reported figures presented here were collected from the valuation dated June 30, 2012.

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 Washington paid 53 percent of its annual required contribution.[6][14]

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.[15] 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.[16]

ARC historical data[7]
Fiscal year PERS Plan 1 PERS Plan 2/3 SERS Plan 2/3 PSERS Plan 2
Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed
2013 $534,200,000 50% $408,300,000 95% $86,600,000 91% $15,100,000 104%
2012 $508,000,000 51% $407,700,000 94% $85,200,000 88% $14,700,000 104%
2011 $439,300,000 33% $408,600,000 80% $88,600,000 70% $14,700,000 106%
2010 $627,800,000 25% $383,100,000 85% $82,300,000 75% $14,800,000 103%
2009 $620,200,000 52% $369,700,000 119% $71,500,000 89% $14,300,000 101%
ARC historical data[7]
Fiscal year TRS Plan 1 TRS Plan 2/3 LEOFF Plan 1 LEOFF Plan 2
Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed
2013 $275,400,000 43% $231,600,000 99% $0 N/A $94,700,000 144%
2012 $254,000,000 44% $232,200,000 92% $0 N/A $97,300,000 137%
2011 $205,900,000 47% $232,300,000 72% $0 N/A $84,000,000 157%
2010 $406,100,000 28% $221,100,000 75% $0 N/A $112,200,000 114%
2009 $391,000,000 46% $186,900,000 86% $0 N/A $105,300,000 122%
ARC historical data[7]
Fiscal year WSPRS Plan 1/2 JRS Judges
Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed Annual Required Contribution (ARC) Percentage contributed
2013 $2,500,000 260% $21,700,000 47% $400,000 N/A
2012 $2,900,000 224% $22,600,000 36% $300,000 N/A
2011 $2,300,000 228% $18,600,000 59% $100,000 N/A
2010 $6,600,000 80% $20,400,000 57% $0 N/A
2009 $5,000,000 127% $21,200,000 49% $0 N/A

Historical funding levels

Historical pension plan data - all systems[7]
Year Value of assets Accrued liability Unfunded liability Funded ratio
2007 $50,792,000,000 $54,682,900,000 $3,892,900,000 92.88%
2008 $54,350,600,000 $57,877,500,000 $3,528,900,000 93.91%
2009 $56,995,300,000 $61,822,400,000 $4,827,100,000 92.19%
2010 $58,448,800,000 $61,582,200,000 $3,132,400,000 94.91%
2011 $60,661,300,000 $64,763,900,000 $4,103,500,000 93.67%
Change from 2007-2011 $9,869,300,000 $10,081,000,000 $210,600,000 0.78%

Rate of return

Washington presumes a 7.90 percent return rate on its pension investments.[7]

Analysis

Percent Funded Status of Pension Plans
in the 50 States as of November 2013
Public pensions in NevadaPublic pensions in MassachusettsPublic pensions in ColoradoPublic pensions in New MexicoPublic pensions in WyomingPublic pensions in ArizonaPublic pensions in MontanaPublic pensions in CaliforniaPublic pensions in OregonPublic pensions in WashingtonPublic pensions in IdahoPublic pensions in TexasPublic pensions in OklahomaPublic pensions in KansasPublic pensions in NebraskaPublic pensions in South DakotaPublic pensions in North DakotaPublic pensions in MinnesotaPublic pensions in IowaPublic pensions in MissouriPublic pensions in ArkansasPublic pensions in LouisianaPublic pensions in MississippiPublic pensions in AlabamaPublic pensions in GeorgiaPublic pensions in FloridaPublic pensions in South CarolinaPublic pensions in IllinoisPublic pensions in WisconsinPublic pensions in TennesseePublic pensions in North CarolinaPublic pensions in IndianaPublic pensions in OhioPublic pensions in KentuckyPublic pensions in PennsylvaniaPublic pensions in New JerseyPublic pensions in New YorkPublic pensions in VermontPublic pensions in VermontPublic pensions in New HampshirePublic pensions in MainePublic pensions in West VirginiaPublic pensions in VirginiaPublic pensions in MarylandPublic pensions in MarylandPublic pensions in ConnecticutPublic pensions in ConnecticutPublic pensions in DelawarePublic pensions in DelawarePublic pensions in Rhode IslandPublic pensions in Rhode IslandPublic pensions in MassachusettsPublic pensions in New HampshirePublic pensions in MichiganPublic pensions in MichiganPublic pensions in AlaskaPension Health 2013.png
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.[17] Critics assert that this assumption is unrealistic, citing changing market conditions and significantly lower investment returns across the board over the past several years.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21]

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."[22] 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.[23][24][25][26][27]

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."[22]

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.[28]

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, 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, Washington's public pension plans were 49% funded, making it the 5th most funded state.[29]

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 (5.47 percent for Washington) instead of the state-reported assumed rates of return (8.00 percent for Washington as of June 30, 2010).[30]

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.[30]

The adjusted net pension liability for Washington in fiscal year 2011 was ranked the 18th highest in the nation.[30] 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 - Washington
Governmental revenue* Personal income State GDP Per capita
State findings 32.7% 3.8% 3.2% $1,677
National ranking 34th 32nd 31st 29th
*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.[30]

Reforms

Enacted reforms

2012

S.B. 6378

Sponsored by Senator Joseph Zarelli (R), S.B. 6478 made several significant reforms to PERS, TRS and SERS, including:[31]

  • Closing to new employees who first establish membership in PERS, TRS or SERS after April 30, 2013 the alternative early retirement and enhanced early retirement options. Instead, new members with at least 30 years of service would be eligible to retire at age 55 with a benefit reduction of 5 percent per year for each year of difference between the member's retirement age and age 65. Previously, eligible members could retire at age 55 with 80 percent of their pension benefit or at age 62 with their full pension benefit.
  • Lowering the assumed rate of return on pension investments from 8 percent to 7.9 percent in 2013, 7.8 percent in 2015 and 7.7 percent in 2017.

The governor signed the bill into law on March 2, 2012.[31]

Local public pensions

See also: Local government public pensions

According to the United States Census Bureau, the state has 20 locally-administered pension systems.[5]

Transparency

See also: Public pension disclosure and Governmental Accounting Standards Board
  • The Department of Retirement Systems publishes COLA rates, investment data, annual financial reports and information regarding pertinent legislation on its website.[32]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Washington + public + pensions"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Washington Public Pensions News Feed

  • Loading...

See also

External links

References

  1. Figures below are compiled by adding up all state pension plans
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. State of Washington "2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report," accessed November 21, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Public Employee Retirement Systems State- and Locally-Administered Pensions Summary Report: 2010," United States Census Bureau, April 30, 2012
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pew Center on the States "Widening Gap Update: Washington," accessed November 21, 2013
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 Department of Retirement Systems "2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report," accessed November 21, 2013
  8. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development "Pensions Glossary," accessed November 27, 2013
  9. 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
  10. American Academy of Actuaries "Issue Brief: The 80% Pension Funding Standard Myth," July 2012. Accessed October 23, 2013
  11. Governing Magazine " Is There a Plot Against Pensions?" October 14, 2013
  12. 12.0 12.1 State Budget Solutions, "Promises Made, Promises Broken - The Betrayal of Pensioners and Taxpayers," accessed September 20, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 Analysis only available for system totals and not individual funds.
  14. Government Accounting Standards Board "Annual Required Contribution (ARC)," accessed October 17, 2013
  15. Reuters "Little-known U.S. board stokes hot pension debate," July 10, 2012
  16. State Budget Solutions "GASB's ineffective public pension reporting standards set to take effect," June 5, 2013
  17. "The Widening Gap Update,” Pew Center on the States, accessed October 17, 2013
  18. The New York Times "Public Pensions Faulted for Bets on Rosy Returns," May 27, 2012
  19. Benefits Magazine "Public Pension Funding 101: Key Terms and Concepts," April 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
  20. Crain's Chicago Business "State teachers pension board lowers expected rate of return," September 21, 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
  21. Huffington Post "California Pension Funds Expect Lower Investment Return," March 14, 2012. accessed October 23, 2013
  22. 22.0 22.1 Governing "Expert: Governments Are Masking Their Pension Liabilities ," October 25, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  23. The Washington Post "Kansas’s pension funding gap just grew by $1 billion," September 6, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  24. Topeka Capital-Journal "KPERS' unfunded liability rises to $10.2B," September 4, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  25. Wall Street Journal "Pensions Wrestle With Return Rates," October 10, 2011. accessed October 23, 2013
  26. The Courant "Promising Too Much On Public Pensions," August 10, 2012. accessed October 23, 2013
  27. Business Wire "NCPERS 2013 Survey: Public Pension Plans Report Increasing Confidence, Lower Costs, Growing Returns," October 22, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
  28. National Association of State Retirement Administrators "Issue Brief: Public Pension Plan Investment Return Assumptions," October 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
  29. State Budget Solutions, "Promises Made, Promises Broken - The Betrayal of Pensioners and Taxpayers," accessed September 20, 2013
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 Moody's Investor Service "Adjusted Pension Liability Medians for US States," June 27, 2013
  31. 31.0 31.1 Washington State Legislature "2ESB 6378 - 2011-12," accessed November 21, 2013
  32. Department of Retirement Systems "Home page," accessed November 21, 2013