03/12 - Redefining State Retirement

How can the system be revamped while keeping the promise to those who have provided years of public service?

The State of Louisiana is the largest employer in the state. Last year, employer contributions for public pensions cost Louisiana taxpayers $1.78 billion. This amount is projected to grow annually in order to fund the more than $18 billion deficit in the state retirement system. Governor Jindal has put forth several proposals to transform the system to regain solvency. But how will the changes affect current state employees and new hires? How can the system be revamped while keeping the promise to those who have provided years of public service? Watch “Redefining State Retirement” on “Louisiana Public Square” airing Wednesday, March 28th at 7 p.m. on LPB.

Backgrounder

With over 83,000 employees, the State of Louisiana is the largest employer in the state. The retirement systems covering these current employees and former state workers have accumulated more than $18 billion in unfunded debt. Last year public employees’ pensions cost Louisiana taxpayers $1.78 billion. Governor Jindal has put forth several proposals this legislative session to transform the system to regain solvency. How will the changes affect current state employees and new hires? And can the system be revamped without breaking the promise to those who have provided years of public service? Watch “Redefining State Retirement” on “Louisiana Public Square” Wednesday, March 28th at 7 p.m. on LPB HD.

Panelists include:
- Frank Jobert, Executive Director, Retired State Employees Association
- Robert Travis Scott, President, Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana
- Allen Reynolds, Former State Civil Service Director & RSEA Board member


...Read Full Backgrounder

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Our Panelists:

This program was also funded in part by the Louisiana Forestry Association

We want to know your opinion! Leave your comments in the box below.


I am a teacher in the public system and I am disturbed by Jindal’s efforts to weaken the ability to attract future teachers to Louisiana, and hurt the teachers currently teaching.  Teacher morale is as low as it could be.  We are reminded by our state government daily that we are failing. (Our school is a four star school.) Step raises were deleted from the salary scale. When tax revenues went up, we were informed that now stipends would be reinstated for sports related areas.  Elementary students in our parish may not be retained.  The grading scale was lowered, teachers could not give grades for participating in Accelerated Reader programs (which caused a dramatic decrease in reading}. We are asked to participate in evening and summer activities for little or no pay. Our parish is probably one of the poorest as far as support for teachers would be ranked. The voters turn down any attempt at tax increases to improve teacher salaries.  The last tax increase went to the sheriff’s department to fund a sheriff’s deputy at each school.  Our deputy handles bus loading in the morning and at the end of the day.  Now Jindal wants to make the teachers teach until age 67. Who wants a 67 year old teacher? I can just see great teachers flocking to our state.

Posted by Carolyn Shine  on  03/11  at  09:08 AM

I believe that back in approx 1978 that the State Gov quit paying social security on all of the state employees to save money. That money was suppose to be allocated to State Retirment along with the employees share.  There seems to be a problem that they are now trying to change that.  30yrs is long enough for any State Employee.  It also opens jobs for those coming out of College for Careers.  They should do away with those short term political retirements costing the state money!
Also sourcing out to private companies with state jobs is going to cost the taxpayer more money as they will have to pay for what ever the cost is dictated to them.  Right now the legislature has control over pay raises etc.  They will continue to have to bid out for a low bidder under private contracts. 
Sometimes people talk faster than they can reason out situations!
I hope someone thinks about this.  It looks like another polical corruption in the making. After all Corporations etc control politics already, in my opinion!

Posted by Aubrey McCollough  on  03/19  at  12:47 PM

Ms. Shine,
Thanks for your comments. As the proposed legislation currently stands, K-12 teachers will be exempt from the administration’s proposals. As a taxpayer, though, you will be affected by this debate, so I encourage you to tune in on Wednesday, March 28th at 7 p.m. on LPB to hear what our panelists have to say. As a teacher, you will also be interested in our program for April, “Education Reform 2012.” You can also track all the major legislation this session by tuning into “Capitol Beat” which airs nightly at 6:57 and 9:57 p.m. on LPB.

Posted by kgautreaux  on  03/20  at  09:56 AM

A retired friend of mine now lives in Austin, TX.  Does anyone know how she might be able to see this show?  Is it available online somewhere?

LPB NOTE: The full show will be available online after it airs. Just come to this page (http://beta.lpb.org/index.php/publicsquare/topic/03_12_-_redefining_state_retirement/).

Posted by Paul Grethel  on  03/21  at  12:19 PM

What would happen if all state employees decided not to go to work?  Not for just a day or a week, but until further notice.

I decided to work for the State of Louisiana at a greatly reduced salary, in part because of the retirement benefits offered.  Significant changes to the state retirement benefits could trigger large-scale walk-outs and other labor actions.

Any and all changes should be carefully considered.

Posted by Mariano Hinojosa  on  03/28  at  11:56 AM

If Jindall’s plan is going to pass.  It would be better to go back under Social Security.  The State will have to cough up the matching Social Security Funds and want be able to put them in the General Fund. Another factor is that workers working lots of overtime, do not have that figured into their retirement under the State.  Social Security is paid on net income, thus a larger retirement check and Cola’s.
Since the State could not be trusted to put their share of funds in over the years, how can they be trusted to do such under a new system? I think the State has violated their agreement of contract on Retirement

Posted by A. McCollough  on  03/28  at  02:46 PM

I have worked for 18 years and am 40. Under new provisions I will have to work 46 years!  Gullory stated there is a crisis in healthcare. Has anyone asked what will happen to healthcare with the mass exodus of employees eligible to leave if new provisions pass?

My biggest issue is these changes ONLY go to the general fund NOT back into retirement.

Posted by Sheree  on  03/28  at  06:20 PM

Will all of our state legislators also be included in changes made to the state retirement system?  If not, then I don’t think they should make changes to a system that will not affect them.

Posted by Renee West  on  03/28  at  06:26 PM

I think that we should look for other solutions.  Such as raising the amounts paid for license tags, drivers licenses, fishing licenses, etc and an across the board 1% sales tax.  The state workers shouldn’t be expected to solve the state deficit.  Granted the 3% increase in contribution shouldn’t be bad for them but changing the retirement age is not fair.  If they need to change it then it shouldn’t be more than age 60 and personally I think that isn’t necessary.

Posted by P. Brewer  on  03/28  at  06:37 PM

When I joined the state back in 1972, I am retired now, I was paying social security until I was forced to enroll in The La. State Retirement System.  It would have been stupid for me to elect to continue to pay Soc. Sec. since I would not be able to receive both, or at a significantly reduced rate, even from a benefit from my deceased spouse, if I did pay S.S..  There were no 401’s, 403’s, IRA’s etc.in those days.
The fact is the state failed to pay it’s share of the agreed upon rate, that they took out of my check each payday.  It is the state’s job to make-up the deficit or find more creative financial maneuvers to cover that debt.  So now state employees now have to pay their share and more, and the state’s too for a benefit they already paid for.  Isn’t there a law covering the lack of payments the state failed to pay toward the retirement benefits of state employees?  They certainly found creative financial maneuvers to use the money in the past instead of paying “their share/debt.” of the agreed upon amount toward state employees retirement system.  And why just state employees.  State police put money toward failed investments.  The teachers are all about to lose their jobs based on Jindal’s proposal to “revamp” the system in the present legislation session.

Posted by Patricia Gugliuzza  on  03/28  at  06:39 PM

What has not been mentioned is that there has already been a change for new hires since 2006.  They have to work until age 60 and their final average compensation is based on a 5 year average (rather than 3 year average) and they pay more to their retirement.  This never gets mentioned.

Posted by Carol Pace  on  03/28  at  06:40 PM

One issue that I don’t believe has been addressed as yet is the fact that the reason the state retirement system is so generous, as opposed to other retirement systems, is that in order to secure competant workers, at the salaries that the state wanted to pay, vs what industries were paying, there simply had to be some incentive to workers who worked for the state at those
reduced salaries.
Other states have incurred the same thing that Louisiana is now facing. Outside advisers have for a long time tried to end the type of retirement that Louisiana state workers enjoy. But, as I said, for the salaries offered for positions in state jobs, most workers would go into industry at a much better salary.
For the state to simply not pay their portion of the retirement that the workers had to pay every payday, is no reason to try to chop up the benefits that were contractually promised to the workers when they began working for the state.
It’s really no different than what the federal government has done to Social Security. They too, not only didn’t pay their contractually fair share, they too put any excess funds not used to pay Social Security benefits into the general “slush” fund, where the legislators simply plowed through it, mostly for projects that would get those same legislators reelected.

Posted by Thomas Smith  on  03/28  at  06:43 PM

State employees have not had any type of pay increase for 3 years.By increasing the amount we pay in for retirement, state employees will be earning less money. In September, LASERS sent a letter stating that the retirement system was strong-what happened in four months? The Governor wants to get his way at the expense of the State employees.

Posted by Beth Stevens  on  03/28  at  06:56 PM

I am a current employee of the state and enrolled in the Teachers Retirement system of Louisiana. First I am offended that if cuts are going to be proposed they are not equally shared by all state employees. We all draw from the state fund, and if changes are going to come about, everyone needs to be affected equally rather than put the load on a sub-group of the state employee population.

Next I would say that new retirement programs should be for employees who are not currently in one of the state retirement systems. Stop the additional injuries by changing the program immediately for new hires. Thereafter, if someone does not commit for long term employment, and leaves the system they lose their eligibility to participate in the current programs and would need to join the program in place at that time for new employees. The state needs to meet their obligation. I was promised a defined benefit when I was hired. I am being paid about $25,000 dollars less than others with my equivalent years of expertise in my profession and further more and filling a position that is notoriously difficult to get people hired into. Meet the contractual agreement we made when I was hired, make changes for the future so there is a finite amount of time that these problems can continue to grow and don’t drive away people who are currently active employed state employees while they are younger as it means we will have to fund THEIR retirement promised monies for just that much longer.

Posted by Robert Baye  on  03/28  at  07:14 PM

My thanks to panelist Shirley and Mr. Jobert… I believe they voiced the opinion of most hard working State employees!  They were both RIGHT ON!!

Posted by P. McKenzie  on  03/28  at  07:35 PM

Congrats on a great program!  As usual, La Public Square did a great job airing opinions and having a open discussion about a very critical decision in the lives of many state employees.  Unfortunate that no legislators were there, but hopefully they will not march to Jindal’s drums which seem to be pounding a resounding RUSH< RUSH RUSH… This is something that will affect many folks lives for many years.  Most of LA public servants have dedicated years to this state, at reduced salaries because of the benefits.  Let’s be fair to them & look at every side of this issue & not rush to doing something detrimental to them simply to make this governor’s balance sheet look good for him.

Posted by Cindy S  on  03/28  at  07:49 PM

uh, they admitted on the program tonight that the teachers are next. a smart teacher knows this. all government employees need to fight this. there is no way they will stop with the 40,000 sacrificial lambs they are trying to slaughter.

Posted by abba  on  03/28  at  08:05 PM

I applaude Mr. Jobert, Mr. Allen and guest Shirley. Finally a dialogue with citizens concerning issues that few of us understand. It concerns me as a citizen and as a state worker that new careers are going to be “more transient.” Is dedication, a strong worth ethic, and security being sacrificed for a higher starting salary and less security? What improprieties are we ready to accept?  Instead of comparing Lasers to other State retirement systems that are failing or failed, why don’t we here the facts that LASERS is solvent, has been managed very well, and it is the politicians that have not paid the State’s part their part as the workers and the employers have? We need to here from Ms. Cindy R. at Lasers. It would behoove all La citizens to receive an accounting of all revenue and expenditures at the state level. Could we please put that up for a vote? smile

Posted by Dean Aiken  on  03/28  at  08:26 PM

The problem here is not that state employees have put up too little to fund the retirement plan.  The problem is that state government has not put up its share.  The UAL is the responsibility of the state, not the retirees.  For years, the state legislature knowingly decided not put up its share.

If I went to a bank and invested in a guaranteed savings plan, I expect that after the prescribed period I could “cash in” my plan and I expect the bank to deliver the money the plan promised.  The bank cannot say that they had not put up its share in order for the plan to pay the promised return.  In fact, the Securities and Exchange Commission would enforce it.

Public employees decided to be public employees based on the retirement promise at the time.  I, for example, decided to forgo higher (private industry) income in my career because I enjoyed my work as a mental health clinician, because I liked the benefits, and because I expected that I would be able to retire after 30 years with a reasonable retirement income.

State employees did/are doing their share.  State government needs to do its share.

All of the state retirement plans are affected by the UAL.  Why target only LASERS?  It appears to be a scheme to slowly change the state retirement plans, avoiding mass opposition by attacking them one at a time.

Posted by Fred Duplechin  on  03/28  at  08:43 PM

i want to know how many years a legislator doesn’t have to work in order to receive retirement benefit (and what is it?).  since they are the ones that made the decision in 1992 to pay interest only on the UAL and now current LASERs employees (only 1/3 of the total state employee workforce) are being asked (by legislators again) to pick up the pace because the balloon payments are now due!  i believe legislators are granted generous pensions with very few years of service.  since they are not lifelong commitments to the state as most of the lasers’ employees are, they should modify their retirement benefit.

Posted by rmilho  on  03/28  at  08:56 PM

I am wondering why the drop program isn’t being considered as a part of the reform.  This would be one way to lighten the retiriement delima the state is facing. 

Secondly, I believe that increasing the retirement age not only punishes the well-deserved and dedicated employee but it keeps younger people from being able to fill these positions for less pay.  The senior employees are more than likely capped out at their highest salaries several years before retirement currently….and now we expect them to work additional years which will only give them a higher retirement salary.

Thank you.

Posted by Tabatha Foret  on  03/28  at  09:15 PM

I think if people would get a list of all the business’s that are supporting this busting of public pension systems and boycott these business’s it would not take long for the legislators to get the message clearly and for good.  Pro-Business groups in Louisana has position papers published promoting these radical and hurtful changes to the public retirement systems.  One can go to their websites and get a list of their supporters These include banks,oil companies etc all making record profits off of Louisiana citzens right now, while the promote hurtful changes to Louisiana famiies.  Sort sounds like we getting ready for round 2 “Huey Long vs Standard oil and the money barrons of that era. Maybe RSEA should start with billboards with the business names on it going into Baton Rouge and New Orleans and just leave it up for the remaining 3 years these people have in office.
Why should we support these business’s that are trying to take away from our health and well being

Posted by Stateworker2  on  03/28  at  10:09 PM

Watching program on Public Employee Retirement. When someone like Mr Scott takes an extreme amount of time to explain why the “state” needs the money in order to offset the retirement cost/system…............then, the only people coming out on the short end are the workers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Charlie Melancon  on  03/29  at  08:41 AM

What really hurts about proposed retirement changes is the fact that a relatively small amount of a big group of employees will feel the weight of the changes. We did our part and worked hard for the state. Now, we are told to pay more with much less retirement outcome. An appointed authority of Jindal’s office actuallly told me in a negative way “just wait, change is coming for you state workers.”. I was like, what do I have to apologize for. I took this position instead of other careers and worked hard. What gives. Tell the truth.

Posted by Alex Broussard  on  03/29  at  08:43 AM

What kind of sacrifice is the governor making when cutting so much of the workers’ benefits? And since some of the state programs are federally funded, why is the money being used in state funds illegally?

Posted by Greg  on  03/29  at  08:45 AM
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