In a guest column published June 7, Adam Crepelle calls for pension reform seemingly unaware that Louisiana has been a frontrunner across the country in reforming its public retirement systems. For almost 30 years, state legislators and the state retirement systems have partnered together on pension legislation that provides modest, reliable pensions for dedicated public servants at a sustainable cost.
In Louisiana, we’re so used to hearing bad news about our home. But, here’s some good news that we should all be aware of. To date, pension reforms associated with the state’s two largest retirement systems — Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana and the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System — have a projected $8 billion cost savings to the state. In fact, since Fiscal Year 2010, an additional $1.4 billion has been paid toward the debt as a result of these reforms. And, Louisiana, thanks to responsible pension reform, will be able to pay off long-term retirement liabilities before their required payoff date and provide economic relief to the employers of system members.
Just last year, the legislative actuary acknowledged this good news in a report that found TRSL and LASERS are positioned well to continue providing defined benefits far into the future. And recently, an Atlanta-based independent actuary said that the financial position of both TRSL and LASERS has improved faster than other systems in the country.
So, these reforms are working, and it’s important that we continue to allow them to work.
Switching to a different type of retirement plan, as Mr. Crepelle proposes, will not free Louisiana from its existing debt payments, but it will add uncertainty to the retirement security of many retirees who cannot participate in Social Security — as most private sector workers do.
Furthermore, the state has rigorous requirements in place that must be met before any COLA can be granted. First and foremost, the systems must have enough money to pay for the COLAs. And, by law, payment on retirement debt must be made before any money can be placed into accounts created to hold funds for COLA payments. On average, the COLAs granted this year will be enough to buy one tank of gas.
Louisiana has a solid track record of taking bold and important steps over the past 30 years to ensure the sustainability of its pension systems. We commend legislators, past and present, for the work that they have done, and look forward to continuing to work together to provide viable retirement systems that impact more than 332,000 lives as well as countless local economies across this state.
Maureen H. Westgard
LASERS executive director