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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: January 30, 2019 02:08 PM
From: Representative Scott Conklin
To: All House members
Subject: Accountability for Pension Liability
Promises are only as good as the person who makes them. While on the campaign trail candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Senator and Representative in the General Assembly make many promises including not to take a pension while in office. While that may be the case for some, others choose until right before retire to opt-in to the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) by buying back all of their time, which then makes them eligible for a pension. This practice needs to stop!

As of February 20, 2018, SERS projected unfunded liability was approximately $19.5 billion. For SERS, one of the many causes of the unfunded liability is individuals who elect service to the pension system after a lengthy career. While SERS can account for the employer contributions for an employee who is required to opt-in to service, the system cannot account for those employees who have the option of electing service prior to retirement. Accordingly, the system accrues an unfunded liability for that individual.

While minuscule in comparison to the current unfunded liability, we must ensure that any liabilities to the pension systems are properly funded. Therefore, I am proposing that we hold the aforementioned candidates to their promise by creating a 365-day window from the date they are sworn into office for them to elect membership to SERS. Once that one-year timeframe closes, the individual will not have the option to elect service to SERS until after a bona fide termination of State service and return to State service in a position allowing membership. While this change may not resolve SERS’s current unfunded liability, it is a reasonable step to ensure that it is not exacerbated in future years.

Let’s work together to hold candidates for office accountable for their promises and to eliminate one of the causes for unfunded pension liabilities.

Introduced as HB823