PERA — What Are The Facts

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The information posted below is provided to bring an understanding to citizens and elected officials as to the true solvency and operation of the Public Employee Retirement Association.

RESPONSE TO REPRESENTATIVE MIMI STEWART
By Doug Crandall, RPENM Member and Former PERA Board Chair
Recently State Representative Mimi Stewart has taken the lead in championing the cause of assuring that PERA benefits will be available for the long term. As current or former public employees and members of the Public Employeeʼs Retirement Association, RPENM members can all appreciate State Representative Stewartʼs concern. There is certainly merit in some of her suggestions regarding future retirees who are not already vested into the current program. However, she has made both public and private statements with the assumption that PERA is in some sort of dire straits and is on the verge of insolvency. This is not true.
Representative Stewart has said that the combined PERA and ERA (Educational Retirement Association) shortfall is more than $7 billion and is projected to more than double in five years. This is indeed an alarming statistic, but it is not supported by any facts available from PERA or ERA. Further, this concept of unfunded liabilities to a public employee pension fund is a mathematical formula that is only as accurate as the
underlying assumptions (none of which have been brought up by Representative Stewart), and is not a true gauge of the solvency of the pension plan. Pension standards generally recognize a plan that is 80% funded as a safe and acceptable level. At the last actuarial valuation, through June 30, 2010, PERA was 78%
funded. This figure is based upon a five year “smoothing” method that takes into account the ups and downs of the financial markets. In other words, the two worst years of the past several decades are included in the calculation and PERA is still in quite good shape. Considering that the past two years have produced double digit returns, the plan is in even better shape today. In fact, total PERA assets once again exceed
$12 billion and have nearly recovered every dollar lost in the great recession.
There is also concern about Representative Stewartʼs contention that the PERA and Boardʼs decision to ask for contribution increases “will be paid mostly by taxpayers.”This is simply wrong. Contribution increases for PERA come directly from employees. In fact, over the past several years there have been several voluntary increases in employee contributions to the PERA fund in order to pay for retirement benefits. For most PERA plans, the total contribution rate is between 22% and 25% of salary. This contribution rate, which far exceeds the norm for nearly any public or private plan, is one reason that PERAʼs solvency will remain strong, even in tough times. Taxpayers (which includes every city, county, state and educational employee in New Mexico) pay for our government and itʼs employees to do a job. When employees increase their contributions to their retirement fund, it is from the money they have already earned. There has never been a request, or even an idea, to pay for PERA pensions through any sort of direct tax.
Representative Stewart has also erroneously stated in public that employee contribution
increases are already in effect, “but to address the current budget crisis, not solvency of
the retirement fund.” It is true that the State Legislature chose to reduce their share of
retirement funding and pass it along to State employees to assist in closing the budget
deficit, but this is irrelevant to the argument of solvency.
The PERA Board policy requires a specific temporary increase in employee
contributions when any of the PERA plans (e.g., state employees, municipal firefighters
or police) fails to meet acceptable funding standards. The budgetary issues are entirely
separate from PERAʼs fiduciary due diligence in assuring that all of the PERA plans
remain adequately funded.
PERA investments are complex, to say the least. In order to deal with the complexity of
pension plan financing and investing each PERA Board member is required to attend at
least one trustee conference each year that deals exclusively with public employee
pension issues. Additionally, every year the Board spends at least two full days at a
mandatory retreat on nothing but investment and actuarial issues involving the PERA
plan. Even further, the PERA Board and investment committee meets twice monthly to
review investments, market trends and money manager performance.
Both fiduciary law and the New Mexico state constitution provide the PERA board
members with the sole authority and duty to manage and protect the PERA fund for
both future and current retirees. Representative Mimi Stewart is a good legislator and
well respected by RPENM, her peers and the voters in her district. But Representative
Stewart has many responsibilities and does not have the time to truly understand the
needs and challenges of a $12 billion pension fund. However, Representative Stewart,
RPENM members, New Mexico taxpayers and the thousands of current an future
PERA retirees may rest assured that the PERA Board is diligently administering the
PERA fund to assure that it is safe and sound today, tomorrow and for generations to
come.

He Just May Be The Perfect Candidate – Not

By Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot ©2009)

Quote Freely From The Article – Leave The Pseudonym Alone

Readers of this blog will recall that I have written certain articles regarding Val Kilmer and his proposed or supposed run for governor of the State of New Mexico. Now comes news that the former Batdude has experienced the wrath of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) through a lien filed against property Kilmer owns in New Jersey.  The lien is substantial and I hope for his sake that there has been some mistake, such as a bookkeeper or a dastardly attorney running away with the money that was supposed to be paid to the IRS on behalf of Mr. Kilmer. If there is not mistake of any kind and the failure to pay the amount owed by Mr. Kilmer is just and falls on his back, I hope they end up placing a lien against the Batmobile AND the Batcave. You can read more regarding the amount and the property the lien is against by clicking  here

Once Mr. Kilmer has his tax issues put to bed, perhaps he can apply for an assistant position for any one of the Obama appointees that have confessed their tax sins. Revelations of delinquent taxes abound in the POTUS administration, so one more episode of ignorance, negligence or downright contempt for the law may not matter to this federal administration.

Failing a federal appointment, there’s enough slipping and sliding and hiring of exempt positions in New Mexico government, that the goobernator of this state could special hire Mr. Kilmer to fill one of the positions that was allegedly frozen in the recent past. Federal stimulus money was not meant for hiring the goobernator’s friends and supporters, but we’re not to tell that to those in Dizzyland (Santa Fe). The way things have gone for six or so years … it just does not seem to matter for many senators and representatives in state government. There are so few that fulfill the duties of their office without expecting some reward in return. There are some senators and representatives that do care and you, yes you, need to watch what is going on around you and support those in government that truly care about your and my welfare. Make it your business to know all you can about every politician that has anything to do with your welfare. And, if you don’t, then shame on you.

I strayed from Mr. Kilmer, but regardless of what happens to his tax issue, forget about voting to place him in any position in government. That’s probably the reasonable thing to do.

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“Stimulating” The Stimulus

By Bob Steiner

Governor Richardson has appointed previous Governor Tony Anaya as the executive director of  the state Recovery and Reinvestment Office.  This agency will monitor how stimulus funds are used to insure that the expenditures are helping to promote jobs and have a lasting effect on economic prosperity.

According to a recent press release, Mr. Anaya has emphasized that requests for stimulus funds which stress regional collaboration will be “rewarded”.  One example of  such regional action, which he  cited was the animal control center in Edgewood.  That facility was originally to be developed with the idea of serving most communities in the Estancia Valley but had to be scaled back to serving only the town of Edgewood because of a lack of funds. Now, with an infusion of federal stimulus money, the original concept of a “regional center” could once again be pursued.  I sincerely hope that the mayor and town council of Edgewood will aggressively follow up on this issue!

While not as “regionally oriented’ as the animal center, Ms. Mahalick, the town planner,  had prepared a detailed  request for other capital expenditures for Edgewood.  This was a well-written document which listed the “high priority”  needs of the community and was given to our legislators in November.  Unfortunately, when it came time for the money to be appropriated, the funds were not available. Continue reading

Guv Nixes Criminal Records Erasure Bill

by Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot, ©2009)

Quote Freely From The Article — Leave The Pseudonym Alone

In a move that is sure to WOW New Mexico public and private employers,  Governor Bill Richardson has put the kibosh on a bill that was just wrong-headed. The bill offered little to society and much to those who may have thumbed their nose at society and the ordinary citizen. Here’s more from the New Mexico Business Weekly Governor Axes Criminal Records Bill!

Whither Goest The Film Industry

by Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot, ©2009)

Quote Freely From The Article — Leave The Pseudonym Alone

Since New Mexico has a successful film industry incentive program, at least as reported by some supposedly in the know, it might be interesting to see where we might be going with all these cameras and stages.

There is a very interesting piece regarding all of the above in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s online Pasatiempo written by Robert Nott on April 2nd. If cameras that are turned toward captivating subjects and people happen to turn your eye, then you’ll want to read about what other states are doing to become competitive in the film industry and what New Mexico might have to look at doing to stay on or near the top of the heap. To read Mr. Nott’s article click here  The Big Picture then find the link to The Big Picture on the left side. I would post a direct URL, but the webmaster or someone has “munged” it.

For those who may not know,  several films have been filmed in the Estancia Valley over the past five years and more than a few folks from the area  have been employed in one capacity or another by the film companies or those contracting with them.

Who Or What Is Bugging Me — Since You Ask, I’ll Tell Thee

A Beatle Bug

A Beetle Bug

by Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot, ©2009)

Quote Freely From The Article — Leave The Pseudonym Alone

Politicians that make alliances simply to gain some advantage that will allow them to try their selfish techniques in fights they cannot give up or hope to win in the end.

While, I have specific politicians in mind, it would render very little to name names or kick rears. The individuals I have in mind surely know what they have done and to whom they owe their allegiance … and it is not the public that elected them.

Whether they shave or put on their makeup each morning (or both)  as they look in their mirror, it has to be difficult for them to believe they are the champions they represent themselves to be when they are making their empty promises.

No doubt, you that live in the United States, and especially New Mexico, have been bugged by these people, and I’m not revealing anything to you that is at all new.  I just hope that someday it will be possible, in addition to watching their lips move, to have a way to tell when they lie. Perhaps, they could turn chartreuse or some other color that would be less than pleasing to observe or their tongues could be shocked to silence (no hope for that, I suppose, with the cost of electricity being what it is).

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Shufflin’ And Scufflin’ In The Wee Hours Of Our Legislature

by Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot, ©2009)

Quote Freely From The Article — Leave The Pseudonym Alone

When a Senator (John Arthur Smith, D-Deming) chops up sausage from a Representative’s (Ben Lujan, D-Nambe) “pork” ammendment to a finance bill which passed from the New Mexico House of Representatives to the New Mexico Senate  fur and feathers are apt to fly. Such was the case when the forgoing occurred about the time the legislature was on the verge of adjourning its 60 day session. The Representative seemed to have lost control when he started throwing expletives and accusations of racism toward the Senator.

You decide who was calm and who was deflected. Click on the link for a story from Kate Nash of the Santa Fe New Mexican

Shufflin’ And Scufflin In The Wee Hours Of Our Legislature

A Day Without Trouble Is A Day Without Legislators

by Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot, ©2009)

Quote Freely From The Article — Leave The Pseudonym Alone

Some of them, at least. Witness the new three-quarters of a cent “education” gross receipts tax our Democrats in the New Mexico House of Representatives just passed out of the house.  No Republican house members voted for the tax and only six Democrat house members voted against the tax, our Representative Rhonda King being one of the six.

Any thinking person or group of thinking persons has to wonder how in Hades, legislators can approve an increase to a tax which is considered to be the most regressive (the gross receipts tax) tax of all, and that, in a so-called recession. Perhaps they are all asleep at the switch or the bar stool.

According to the Albuquerque Journal (Journal) of Saturday, March 14, 2009, “Advocates of the bill pointed out that New Mexico removed the gross receipts tax from food several years ago.” What is concealed  in that point is the  impact of a one-half of a cent gross receipts tax increase passed during the same session that was, and still is levied against all other purchases for goods and services with but few exceptions. The manipulation during that legislative session was a sham and a shell game and the implication that the public gained some great savings as a result of the “food tax” being removed was a scam then and it is a scam now. Legislators such as Mimi Stewart (D, Albuquerque) who indicated in the same  Journal article, that this increase was essentially  a job creation tax or otherwise indicated the tax is just what the doctor ordered, should hide their Ostrich heads in the sand, or wherever, and not remove them until this session is over. They seem to be working in dark, dank places anyway.

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