The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 20, 2013

State pension plans underfunded by over $16 billion

ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s public pension plans for government employees are underfunded by $16.7 billion — a deficit that’s $4 billion larger than it was when lawmakers took steps to fix the problem in 2010.

The underfunded pensions aren’t a reason for alarm, experts say, but they say it is a problem that 11 of the state’s 12 public pension plans open to new members don’t have enough money coming in to cover promised benefits. Plans for state troopers, public safety workers, and local police and firefighters are among those with the largest gaps. Lawmakers will consider changes to those plans this year.

“Is there a need for concern? Yes,” said Larry Martin, executive director of Minnesota’s Legislative Commission of Pensions and Retirement. “We’re departing — significantly — from what we think we ought to be doing.”

The commission released the numbers last month. The figures are current through last June 30.

The plans pay for retirement for more than 729,000 current and retired state and local government workers and pay out about $3.8 billion in benefits annually.

In 2010, the Legislature made some changes to the pension plans to fix what was then a $12.7 billion deficit. The changes included requiring state workers and employers to pay more into the funds.

Some say the reforms need more time to show improvement.

“I know the people that run the funds; they’re looking at them and keeping an eye on them,” said state Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, who chairs the House Government Operations Committee, which heard testimony on Jan. 15 about the status of the plans. “I’m not that concerned, because I think the things we did in 2010 and moving forward are moving them in the right direction.”

Others say the state must do more to avoid a pension crisis.

“We are not gaining any ground on eliminating this unfunded liability,” said Mark Haveman, executive director of the nonpartisan Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence. “None of them are on a process, a timeline, under current law to be fully funded in 30 years. You’re transferring these significant liabilities to future generations.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • American doctor in Africa gets treatment for Ebola BOONE, N.C. (AP) — An American doctor infected with the deadly Ebola disease received intensive treatment Sunday in West Africa and was in stable condition, talking to his medical team and working on his computer, a spokeswoman for an aid group said.

    July 27, 2014

  • Salmonella Outbreak Trial [Duplicate] Trial in salmonella outbreak to start in Georgia ATLANTA (AP) — Three people accused of scheming to manufacture and ship salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed nine people, sickened more than 700 and prompted one of the largest food recalls in history are set to go to trial this week in south Georg

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pitfalls emerge in health insurance renewals WASHINGTON — For the 8 million people who persevered through all the technical travails in the new health insurance exchanges and managed to sign up for coverage in 2014, their policies will probably automatically renew come November when open enroll

    July 27, 2014

  • Hamas agrees to 24-hour holiday truce in Gaza war GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas on Sunday agreed to observe a 24-hour truce in Gaza after initially rejecting a similar Israeli offer, as fighting resumed and the two sides wrangled over the terms of a lull that international diplomats had hoped c

    July 27, 2014

  • Solar car race to end at University of Minnesota MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A cross-country solar car race is set to finish at the University of Minnesota on Monday. About 10 solar cars from colleges around the world are competing in the eight-day, 1,700-mile American Solar Challenge. The race began July

    July 27, 2014

  • Dozens of oil trains pass through Minnesota weekly Railroad documents released by the state Department of Public Safety show about 50 trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota are passing through Minnesota each week.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medical Marijuana [Duplicate] Wanted: Manufacturers for Minn. medical pot program After the long slog to legalize medical marijuana, the state's real work has begun to get the unconventional medicine in severely ill patients' hands by this time next year.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Minneapolis to NYC flight diverted to Milwaukee MILWAUKEE (AP) — A Delta Air Lines flight from Minneapolis to New York City has landed safely in Milwaukee after it was diverted. Delta spokeswoman Kate Modolo says the crew chose to divert the flight Saturday morning out of an abundance of caution a

    July 26, 2014

  • Hamas rejects 4-hour Gaza war truce extension BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip (AP) — A Hamas official says the group has rejected a four-hour extension of a humanitarian truce proposed by Israel. Sami Abu Zuhri sent a text message to reporters Saturday, saying: "No agreement to extending the calm for an

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona execution renews debate over methods SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A third execution by lethal injection has gone awry in six months, renewing debate over whether there is a foolproof way for the government to humanely kill condemned criminals, and whether it's even worth looking for one. Death

    July 26, 2014