It’s the holiday season. While the merry bells keep ringing, Santa Claus is coming back with a big fat pack upon his back. And you can be sure that he’s making a list and checking it twice and he’s going to find out who’s naughty or nice. Just like that jolly old man who lives up north, we at the National Public Pension Coalition keep a naughty and nice list of who’s been good for the retirement security of public employees this year. So you better watch out because we’re checking this list twice.
- John Arnold: Hardly a year goes by without John Arnold funding some new group attacking public pensions. This year saw a noticeable increase in the number and activity of Arnold-funded anti-pension groups. From the Pew Research Center and the Reason Foundation to the Retirement Security Initiative and Secure Futures, Arnold’s malevolent reach continues to expand. With his right-hand man now confirmed as head of the Texas Pension Review Board, we can be sure to expect more attacks from Arnold next year. He will surely be receiving a big lump of coal this year.
- Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin: If anyone deserves the title of “Pension Grinch” this year, it’s Gov. Bevin. He has been relentless this year in his call for harsh and sweeping changes to public pensions in Kentucky. When Gov. Bevin unveiled his radical pension cutting proposal, pension supporters warned about the damaging effects of his plan. When independent analysts offered similar warnings about his proposal, Gov. Bevin buried the reports and doubled down on his personal attacks.
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: Few people have been as blunt and outrageous in their attacks on public pensions over the past several years as Gov. Christie. He has been unusually quiet this year following his failed presidential campaign. Nevertheless, with his governorship mercifully coming to an end, it’s time to look back on the many ways Gov. Christie broke his promises to working families and threatened their retirement security.
- The voters of Maine: In a little noticed vote in November, voters in Maine passed a state question that amended the state constitution to improve financing for public pensions. By increasing the amount of time the pension plan has to recoup investment losses, this constitutional amendment makes pension financing more stable and will ensure that Maine can continue to provide for the retirement security of its hardworking public employees.
- Oklahoma’s teachers: Oklahoma has cut per-pupil funding for education more than almost any other state since the Great Recession. Oklahoma’s teachers face low, stagnant pay and increasing classroom sizes. They also face constant attacks on their pensions from anti-pension ideologues who want to force new teachers into risky and unreliable 401(k)-style plans. Despite these challenges, Oklahoma’s teachers have been active in going to the Capitol, meeting with their legislators, and advocating for their pensions.
- Alaska state Rep. Sam Kito and Sen. Dennis Egan: More than a decade ago, Alaska closed its defined benefit pension plans for teachers and state employees and forced all new hires into a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. This is a particularly harmful move in a state where public employees do not participate in Social Security. For several years now, legislators have introduced legislation to reopen the closed pension plans. This year, Rep. Kito and Sen. Egan introduced companion legislation in their respective chambers and Rep. Kito held a hearing on his bill. While the bill to reopen the pension plans did not advance this year, it is encouraging that state legislators are fighting to provide real retirement security for Alaska’s working families.
Happy holidays from all of us at the National Public Pension Coalition! We look forward to continuing the fight to protect pensions in 2018!