Public Fund Groups Tell Washington: “Back Off!”

December 8, 2010 ( – A plethora of state and local government associations has taken issue with recent federal legislation introduced regarding public pension reporting.


The National Association of Counties, United States Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, International City/County Management Association, National Association of State Auditors Comptrollers and Treasurers, Government Finance Officers Association, International Personnel Management Association for Human Resources, National Council on Teacher Retirement and the National Association of State Retirement Administrators have announced their opposition to HR 6484, the Public Employee Pension Transparency Act (see GOP Congressmen Introduce Bill to Enhance Public Pension Transparency). 

The groups claim that the legislation, introduced by Representatives Devin Nunes (R-California), Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Darrell Issa (R-California) last week “challenges the validity of current state and local government accounting rules and practices and would mandate inappropriate federal reporting requirements on state and local governments regarding their pension costs”.  In a joint press release, the groups say the legislation “sets a precedent for federal intervention into areas that are the financial responsibility of, and have thus been historically regulated by, the states and/or localities”.

“This legislation represents a fundamental lack of understanding regarding the strong accounting rules and strict legal constraints already in place that require open and transparent governmental financial reporting and processes. The organizations urge Congress to oppose the legislation because it conflicts with existing governmental accounting standards, increases state and local government costs, and undermines investor confidence in the municipal bond market,” according to the press release.

Further, the groups say the legislation is “unwarranted, as state and local governments are not seeking a so-called federal “bailout” for their retirement systems”.  Rather, the groups noted that for the last several years, state and local government employers, employees, retirees and taxpayer organizations “have been forging meaningful changes to their systems that will improve and enhance pension sustainability over the long term”, and that more states have enacted significant legislation in 2010 to modify their retirement plans than in any other year in recent history. “None of this activity presumes any federal financial assistance,” they noted.

“While every investor was affected by the 2008 financial market disaster, state and local retirement systems have a strong track record in managing their assets and a much greater time period to recover than do other retirement plans,” the groups said.

The press release goes on to note that “state and local pension systems collectively have pre-funded nearly four-fifths of their future pension liabilities – even when accounting for the steep losses in 2008 and earlier this decade”. 

“Inaccurate and inflammatory descriptions of the state of public pensions and unnecessary calls for federal intervention are unwarranted and only serve to confuse the public and unduly alarm state and local government retirees,” according to the groups.  “Further, they distract attention from the real pension crisis that Congress should address, namely the vast majority of Americans who have insufficient savings or protections to meet their retirement needs”.