Each the National Conference of State Legislatures holds its annual meeting to consider and act on pending Federal issue s and major issues being considered/confronted by state legislatures. Official House attendees are appointed by the Speaker of the House. I was pleased to be named one of Virginia’s participants.
This year the conference was held in San Antonio,Texas, from August 8 through August 11. I have served as member of the Education Committee for several years. In addition to serving as a member of that committee, as a result of Virginia’s ongoing pension-funding issues, I spent a good deal of time trying to learn how other states were dealing with shortfalls in pension funding.
I was pleased to see that the nationally recognized Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded that public employee benefits are not a cause of states’ budget problems. Less than 4 percent of state budget expenditures go to fund pension benefits. According to an analysis by the Center, “budget shortfalls are largely the result of decreases in tax revenue in part due to falling real estate values and shrinking tax revenue in general.”
According to ABC News, it is a myth that “public pensions are going broke and are overly generous” and “the most recent U.S. Census reveals that the average state employee has a retirement benefit of $22,000 per year”
The Pew Center on the States recently declared that the pensions are far less generous than the enormous figure used by some “authorities.”
According to Pew, “public plans are not relying only on investment returns to mitigate the shortfall. In 2010 more than 20 states made changes to their pensions plans to bring down costs.”
Pew further points out that by 2020 one -fourth of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65, the average benefit of approximately $35,000 will simply not be enough to live on.
Finally, Pew makes it clear that having so many people without adequate income will probably have a “devastating impact on the economy” and will an increasing segment of the population to become poverty-stricken.
All levels of government must begin to face this problem, but particularly the states.
Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]