Newly released data about state and local government pensions sharply contradict statements by politicians who are attacking fire fighters and paramedics with scurrilous statements about pension funding, the International Association of Fire Fighters said today. A fact sheet and issue brief released jointly Feb. 1 by 10 nonpartisan national, state and local government organizations pointed to the solvency of the overwhelming majority of pension funds, which have more than $2.7 trillion in assets held in trust for current and future retirees. "These funds are sufficient to continue paying promised benefits well into the future," the groups stated.
Retirement systems also remain a small portion of state and local government budgets, amounting to about 3 percent, according to the fact sheet, released by the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Association of Counties, United States Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, International City/County Management Association, National Association of State Auditors Comptrollers & Treasurers, Government Finance Officers Association, International Personnel Management Association for Human Resources, National Council on Teacher Retirement and National Association of State Retirement Administrators.
"Fire fighters and paramedics contribute the vast majority of the funds for their pensions, with an assist from a healthy market over the years that has protected our investments," said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. "The market went in the tank in 2007, soaking all kinds of investments, but most pension funds remain very healthy today. "A few funds are in trouble because states like New Jersey and Illinois have not been making their required contributions and have used that money to fund other programs or balance their budgets," Schaitberger said. Despite these unfunded liabilities, most state and local pensions are well funded – including in Florida and New York, where politicians have threatened to slash pension benefits. New York's pensions are more than 100 percent funded, even as Gov. Anthony Cuomo is pledging cuts.
Key facts about pensions cited by the 10 governmental organizations include:
• State and local governments are already taking steps to secure their pensions for the long term;
• Pension dollars help the economy of every jurisdiction;
• Long-term investment returns of public funds continue to exceed expectations;
• State and local government retirement systems do not require, nor are they seeking, federal financial assistance.
Schaitberger said fire fighters and paramedics are being victimized not only by deceitful politicians, but also by Wall Street opportunists who are lobbying to force fire fighters into retirement plans that will cost workers more in fees and other costs, driving up profits for Wall Street. "The Wall Street speculators created the worst recession since 1929 and now they and their political allies are looking to take advantage of the situation to shake down worker pension funds."
"Fire fighters are out there in their communities, risking their lives and improving the quality of life for their neighbors," Schaitberger said. "We do not deserve to be attacked by politicians looking for a convenient scapegoat for their fiscal problems. Fire fighters are part of the solution, not part of the problem."
For additional information, the public pension fact sheet is available at: http://www.nasra.org/resources/PublicPensionFactSheet110125.pdf
The issue brief is at http://nasra.org/resources/ERContributions.pdf