Montana Pension Officials Hold Summit Meeting

April 3, 2006 ( - Officials at Montana's two public pension funds are putting their collective heads together starting Monday in an effort to find ways the plans and the panel that invests their assets can better work together.

Creation of the Joint Issues Committee grew out of a meeting last year among the three executive directors, state budget director David Ewer told the Associated Press.

Unlike other states, where pension boards invest retirement money and administer benefits, the state pension systems in Montana divide those duties. The boards of the two retirement systems administer retirement benefits, while the Board of Investments is charged with investing the funds’ money.

The new panel includes two members each from the Board of Investments, Public Employees Retirement Board, and Teachers Retirement Board.

“For 20 years it’s been separate, the asset and the liability sides,” Ewer said, according to the AP. “We need to have a unified effort, frankly a more sophisticated, unified effort to deal with pension issues.”

Board members also are hoping to share more information and understand each other’s missions through the new committee, so they can work together on possible solutions, said David Senn, executive director of the Teachers Retirement System.

“The idea is to try to get people to look at retirement and pension issues in a more global fashion,” Ewer said. “That there’s more to it than just the benefits issue, more than just the investment issue. We need to think it through from both the benefit and investment perspective.”

Carroll South, executive director of the Board of Investments, said he and others in the retirement systems anticipate a large number of measures dealing with the pension systems on the issue during the 2007 session.

“The closer we are in communication, the better we’re going to be able to respond to it,” he said.

This week’s summit meeting comes as the state projects a $1.46 billion deficit in the pension systems. Currently being blamed for the shortfall are the boards that manage the systems, stock market losses and the Legislature for increasing benefits when the pensions were flush with investment gains.

New predictions are due from actuaries later this year on the status of the projected deficit which will take into account recent investment returns and the impact of the legislature’s most recent cash infusion (See MT House Passes $125M Pension Funding Measure ).