All in all, 2016 was a good year for public pensions. States and cities chose to protect and preserve their defined benefit pension plans and the city of Palm Beach, FL, moved back to a defined benefit plan from an unpopular hybrid plan. What do we expect for 2017? Let’s take a look at the potential threats and opportunities in 2017.
- Kentucky: while the pension systems in the Bluegrass State continue to experience difficulties from years of underfunding by the state government, the new conservative majority in the state capitol threatens to abandon the pension system altogether and move to a risky and unreliable 401(k)-style system.
- Michigan: anti-pension legislators attempted to move a pension-gutting bill in the state senate during this year’s lame duck legislative session. They were defeated due to a strong backlash from firefighters, teachers, and working people, but they are planning to reintroduce the legislation next year. Michigan has already experienced the devastating consequences of closing a public pension plan; it would be a mistake for them to do it again.
- Pennsylvania: as in Michigan, anti-pension legislators tried a last minute move to attack pensions in the Commonwealth but were unable to even bring their bill for a vote. With a more conservative legislature in 2017, it’s basically a given that the same legislators will reintroduce their pension-gutting bill again next year. Pennsylvania made significant changes to its public pensions several years ago. Those changes should be allowed to take effect rather than continuing to debate pension changes every year.
- New Jersey: the Garden State could prove to be a bright spot in 2017. Governor Chris Christie will be in his last year of office since he is prohibited from running for a third term. He recently signed legislation requiring the state to make quarterly payments into the public pension funds. If Christie and the legislature follow through with making the quarterly payments in full, that will be a win for New Jersey workers and taxpayers. As we know, making full, on-time payments to the pension system is key to keeping the fund healthy.
There will be many battles to protect the retirement security of nurses, librarians, sanitation workers, and other public employees in 2017. We here at the National Public Pension Coalition look forward to standing with working families to win these fights in the year ahead.