Montana Governor Promises to Help Public Pension Systems

July 28, 2005 ( - Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer promised that he would come up with a proposal to help bail out the Public Employees Retirement System and the Teachers Retirement System, who together face a potential deficit of $1.2 million, the Associated Press reports.

Managers of the systems had asked the state’s legislature for a bailout earlier in the year, but the governor’s office wanted more time to study the causes of the shortage (See  Montana’s PERS and TRS Face Substantial Deficits ).

Schweitzer blamed the systems’ financial troubles on the Legislature’s decisions in 1999 and 2001 to increase retirement benefits without a corresponding increase in contributions to help cover the added expense, according to the AP.

Some blame the shortage on investment losses when the market crashed following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.   State Senator Dave Lewis, who sponsored the public employee pension increase bill in 2001 said, ”The investment loss caused it.   At the time we passed the bill, the fund had a $1 billion surplus. I don’t apologize for putting the bill in. It needed to be done. It helped a lot of people.”

Schweitzer plans to recommend a one-time contribution to the funds from an estimated $300 million surplus the state had as of July 1, the AP reports.