Democrats had a rough night in Indiana, including losing a U.S. Senate seat. Republicans were able to keep their supermajorities in the State House and State Senate and in pension world, a ballot initiative which forces the legislature to pass a balanced budget passed. As we’ve seen in other states, balanced budget amendments can often lead to pension underfunding. Whenever state legislatures can’t fund their priorities, they often use pension funds as credit cards, paying partially into the fund or in some cases, skipping payments entirely.
Governor Kate Brown was able to hold off a formidable challenge from Republican Knute Buehler last night. More importantly, Democrats were able to secure a supermajority in both the State House and the State Senate. If you remember, Buehler was a big proponent of switching newly hired employees from a defined benefit pension to a defined contribution 401(k)-style retirement plan. With Brown holding the Governor’s mansion and Democrats securing a supermajority, this is not a likely scenario.
Kentucky Republicans held their ground last night in the State Senate and House. Although some districts are still being tallied, it looks as though Republicans will retain the Senate with a 27-11 majority and the State House by 62-38. Both represent a supermajority. SB151, the pension-gutting bill passed earlier this year, is still with the Supreme Court. It is unclear how they will rule.
Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will be the next Governor of Michigan. Along with Whitmer, Democrats Jocelyn Benson won the Secretary of State’s race and Dana Nessel will be the next Attorney General. In the state legislature, Democrats picked up five seats in the State House and five seats in the State Senate. That brings the totals in each chamber to 58-52 GOP in the House and 22-16 GOP in the Senate.
Although Kansas was the home of the biggest upset of election night, with Republican Kris Kobach losing to Democrat Laura Kelly, the state legislature has taken a turn to the right. Kobach, one of the most divisive figures in the country, lost statewide, while several other statewide Republicans declared victory. In the State House, Republicans actually gained a seat to make the chamber 86-39. In the State Senate, Republicans were able to fend off all challengers to keep their total at 31-9. Governor-elect Laura Kelly is pro-pension and we expect her to side with working people. .
The gubernatorial race in Georgia remains too close to call, with Democrat Stacey Abrams refusing to concede to Republican Brian Kemp until all ballots are counted. At this point, there remains a number of absentee, mail-in and provisional ballots that have yet to be counted. If neither candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, there would be a runoff held in early December. If Abrams prevails, she has promised to protect pensions for teachers and other public employees.
Republican Governor Chris Sununu won a second term last night, defeating challenger Molly Kelly by over 40,000 votes. Democrats were able to gain control of both legislative chambers, making it the first time they’ve controlled the House since the 2012 election. With this new legislative landscape, New Hampshire retirees may have a better shot at obtaining a COLA, the last of which was granted in 2010.
Colorado Democrats had a big night on Tuesday. Not only did Jared Polis win the Governor’s mansion over Republican Walker Stapleton, but Democrats took over the State Senate as well. Stapleton, who we’ve mentioned before, is very anti-public pension. He even made dismantling public pensions a primary talking point of his campaign. With Polis as Governor and a Democratic House and Senate, we can expect pensions to be protected for the next two years.
Ballots are still being counted in Arizona’s Senate race, where the margin between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is still razor-thin. Down ballot, Democrats were able to win 13 seats in the 30-seat State Senate and 26 seats in the 60-seat House. Arizonans voted yes on Proposition 125, which allows the state to adjust how pensions are dispensed to retired correctional officers and elected officials. This means retirees’ payouts will be calculated based on yearly cost of living adjustments as opposed to investment returns.
Kevin Stitt, Republican businessman, will be the next governor of Oklahoma. While pensions were not a main issue in the governor’s race, Stitt has made it clear that he is looking to eliminate government waste and pass education reform, which in “Republican-speak” means harm to the economic and retirement security for the hardworking men and women of Oklahoma.
While national attention was focused on the hotly-contested U.S. Senate race, Texas saw some shake ups down ballot. In addition to Republican incumbents losing seats they had held in the U.S. House of Representatives for years, if not decades, Democrats were able to pick up seats in the state Senate and state House. As of writing, the Republican-controlled state House will go from a 40 seat majority down to 16 seats while losing at least two seats in the state Senate.
With the exception of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf rolling into re-election, the Pennsylvania State House and State Senate has a few races too close to call. As it stands now, Democrats made significant gains in both chambers, but they weren’t enough to take either chamber. Going into Tuesday, Republicans had significant majorities in both the State Senate and the House with 33-16 and 120-81, respectively. The State Senate now looks to have narrowed to a GOP lead of 28-21 and the State House at 105-94. Although Republicans have maintained their hold on the state legislature, the makeup is dramatically different.
Last night, Connecticut elected Democrat Ned Lamont as their next governor. Lamont defeated Republican nominee Bob Stefanowski, a former General Electric executive. Democrats secured control of the state Senate while retaining their control of the State House. In 2019, Connecticut’s policymakers and stakeholders will attempt to tackle the state’s large unfunded pension liabilities. Since the state did not begin prefunding its pensions until the 1970s, a buildup of “legacy debt” is the main cause for the current situation.
Incumbent Republican Governor Kim Reynolds retained her governorship after defeating businessman and Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell. Iowa has a strong statewide public pension system, the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS). IPERS and its funding are less contentious political issues in Iowa, but the concern remains that with Reynolds remaining as Governor, she will seek to gut IPERS and force public employees into a 401(k)-style plan. This type of plan change would be disastrous for public employees and Iowa taxpayers.