Pension Tension Across the U.S.

by Gerri Willis

Speaker of the Ohio House William G. Batchelder (R-Medina).A big victory for unions in Ohio will likely mean a major problem for taxpayers. Ohio voters are defeating a new law limiting collective bargaining abilities. The law - which hadn't yet taken effect - was thrown out. That means current union rules will stand until the state legislature comes up with another plan.

Republican Governor John Kasich traveled the state to promote the law which set new minimum contributions for public employee health care and retirement - among other things.

It was a way for local governments - and therefore all taxpayers - to save money. And jobs.

Here's why: State and local government pension funds are between one and four trillion dollars under-funded! So if the SmartMoney number of four trillion dollars is correct, each of the more than 112 million American households will have to chip in more than $35,000 dollars each! To break it down even further that's nearly $1,200 a year for the next 30 years!

So Ohio voters just decided instead of having public sector workers pay a little more towards their pension - they as taxpayers will most likely pay more!States will have to make up those losses somewhere! And Ohio is in serious trouble when it comes to their state pension fund.

According to the Pew Center on the States - Ohio has a pension bill due of more than $171 million! And only about two-thirds of that is actually funded! So why are pensions such problems across the country?

One of the issues they say is these "defined benefit plans" are required to provide a set number at retirement regardless of market conditions or the general economy.

To do that pensions guess about future returns - and Pew says many assume a yearly return of eight percent. To give you a little perspective on how unrealistic that is, the longest-maturity treasury bond pays barely three percent.

And over the last five years the S&P 500 has returned only about a quarter of a percent! There's also "pension-gaming" - loading up on overtime in the year before retirement. Many do that because pensions often base retiree benefits on the highest year's pay workers get. Many cities and states have adopted rules preventing this from occurring - and many others have raised the retirement age.

But as with most pension fund changes they only impact new or future hires and retirees... So the problem won't be solved for like 40 years!

We as a country just can't afford these pensions anymore - which is why most companies have done away with them - moving from defined benefit pensions to defined contributions like 401(k)s

The question we should all be asking: Is it fair that government workers get what the rest of us don't? We're the ones paying! It's only fair that government workers especially ones who aren't first responders should have to share in the costs of their retirement -- just like everybody else.