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Dana L. Vicknair, Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana

The close of the 2019 legislative session and the departure of many respected legislators is a fitting time to reflect on strides the state has made to protect the health of its two largest pension plans that provide retirement benefits to public school teachers and state employees.

For those who are unaware, Louisiana has been a front-runner in the nation for implementing meaningful pension reforms. An enormous amount of credit is due to legislators who have made hard choices to not only retire substantial debt accrued from decades of underfunding, but also to control costs going forward.

These choices include making the required payments to properly fund the systems; directing more excess investment returns earned by each system to pay down debt rather than granting cost-of-living increases; implementing various benefit structure changes that include raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 for new hires; requiring 2/3 legislative approval for benefit changes with a cost; and strategically lowering expected investment return assumptions to better reflect future market conditions. These reforms are working, and taken together, they have a projected long-term savings for the state of $8 billion.

In fact, these efforts were validated in a report from the Legislative Auditor’s Office that found the retirement plans administered by TRSL and LASERS are definitely sustainable. An analysis of state public pension plans by the Pew Charitable Trust and reported in Governing magazine showed that Louisiana’s pension plans are among the top five plans in the country with policies in place to pay down pension debt. We appreciate these affirmations by independent organizations, and are grateful to legislators, past and present, whose work helped make them possible.

At TRSL and LASERS, we are proud that our state has led the country in making retirements sustainable for our members. We look forward to a continued partnership with current and future lawmakers to ensure the viability of our retirement systems through thoughtful and measured action.

Dana L. Vicknair

director, Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana

Cindy Rougeou

executive director, Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System

Baton Rouge