Pension story needlessly pushed panic button | Duluth News Tribune

Pension story needlessly pushed panic button
MIKE KEAPPROTH NEWPORT, MINN. The writer is a correctional officer at the state prison in Oak Park Heights, Minn., and is a board member for the Minnesota State Retirement System.

   We all need to pay attention to what shape public pensions are in. They make it possible for our retirees to live in dignity instead of poverty. They add $3.5 billion to the state’s economy each year. They are a promise we make to workers for decades of service. They deliver a better benefit at half the cost of 401Ks.

   But the Associated Press article published in the Jan. 22 News Tribune about Minnesota’s pension funds hits the panic button for no apparent reason (“State pension plans underfunded by more than $16B”).

   The Legislature and Minnesota’s retirement systems constantly monitor the funds. That’s why adjustments were made in 2010 and continue to be made. As a state employee, I now kick in more than I used to — every paycheck. There is no free ride. Every employee pays into the plan; most pay 50 percent and the state pays 50 percent.

   Overall, taxpayers contribute only 18 cents for every $1 that’s on a pension check. Two-thirds of the benefits come from investments. As anyone with a mutual fund or CD knows, investment returns and interest rates took a beating in the recent recession. Losses like that take years to recover. Patience and a long-term perspective are part of the process. The article had neither.

Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

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