Pennsylvania Pensions

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The Auditor General’s office has released a report detailing how Pennsylvania’s pension system for state employees can cut costs.

The system, known as SERS, is grappling with roughly $20 billion in unfunded liabilities, and has been making concerted efforts to streamline spending.

Since 2007, the fund has reduced the fees it pays to investment managers by more than half.

But in his report, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said there’s room to cut even more of those expenses, noting he doesn’t think SERS’s returns justify its expenditures.

Pennsylvania Takes New Steps On Troubled Public Pension Plans

Jun 12, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania is moving to cut costs again in its big public pension plans, among the nation's most troubled.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Monday that's projected to provide a less expensive pension benefits structure for future school and state government employees beginning in 2019. It'll also shift some risk of investment losses off taxpayers and onto the public employees of tomorrow by introducing a 401(k)-style benefit.

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Approve Public Pension Plan Bill

Jun 8, 2017
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania lawmakers approved legislation Thursday that will cut retirement benefits for future hires in public schools and state government as part of a package of changes designed to slash risk and reap modest long-term savings from the state's deeply indebted public-sector pension systems.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A bipartisan group of legislative leaders has been working on a major proposal to change how state employee pensions are structured.

The commonwealth’s roughly $70 billion unfunded pension liability has been dogging lawmakers for years. But the plan most likely to move forward won’t attempt to reduce that debt significantly.

Instead, leaders say the measure will look similar to one they attempted to pass last session, which disintegrated without a vote because Democrats refused to support it.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf and state Treasurer Joe Torsella say they have a way to cut down on Pennsylvania’s mountainous pension costs: change investment strategies to cut down on fees to outside money managers.

Spokespeople for the state’s two biggest pension funds say they’re open to considering the idea, though they note, they’ve already been doing it to some extent.

The fees Pennsylvania pays to outside investors are among the highest in the country. In 2015, they made up almost $600 million of the money spent by the systems for retired state and public school employees.

Katie Meyer / WITF

In one of the state Capitol’s busy lobbies, there’s a clock that tracks unfunded pension liabilities. All day and night, that clock ticks upwards, adding billions of dollars to Pennsylvania’s debts every year.

The clock’s overseen by a small, dedicated group of pension overhaul advocates and on Tuesday, they dragged it up to the Capitol’s main rotunda to make a renewed call to lawmakers: find a way to halt the clock’s rising numbers, once and for all.