Missouri Auditor Offers First Glimpse of Upcoming Pension Report

Missouri Gateway Arch

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich gave an interview to KSMU radio over the weekend, and in it he offered a sneak preview of his office’s audit of Missouri’s 90 public pension funds.

It’s the first wide-reaching audit of Missouri’s pension systems in 30 years. From the KSMU interview:

He says the good news is a majority of those pensions are “pretty solvent,” but noted that roughly five of the smaller ones in the state are in “serious trouble” and will require further review. Schweich declined to name those pensions ahead of the published audit.

“People wanna know ‘are our pensions solvent? Will we have to bail those pensions out? Will the people who are entitled to that pension money get the money?’ So I initiated a very lengthy and detailed study over a year ago of our 89 pension systems and in a few days we’ll release the results of that.”

Schweich says this will be the first comprehensive study that has been done on pensions in Missouri in over 30 years. He says sometimes pensions come down to a tax, or just good financial management.

“Sometimes they really have the money they’re just not investing it well, or they’re not handling it right or they have too much in the way of administrative costs. So we look at all those things. Our objective is to help pension become solvent if they’re not solvent, and make sure they remain solvent if they are.”

In April, voters in Springfield renewed the city’s ¾-cent police-fire pension sales tax. It was first brought before citizens in 2009, when the pension plan was estimated to be underfunded by $200 million. The plan is now projected to be brought into full funding within five years.

The report won’t be released until sometime in October, but it can eventually be found here.


Photo by Paul Sableman

Pension Tax Could Loom Large in Race for Michigan Governorship

Detroit, Michigan

Pensions aren’t the biggest issue in Michigan’s race for governor. But with incumbent Rick Snyder in a dead heat with challenger Mark Schauer, Snyder’s 2011 pension tax increase could prove to be a major factor in the way the race eventually plays out.

From Money News:

Polls have shown Snyder, 56, in a dead heat with Democratic challenger Mark Schauer, 52, a former state legislator and congressman who’s hammering Snyder for hurting pensioners while cutting business taxes by $1.4 billion.

“I’m very sorry I voted for Mr. Snyder,” said Rosalind Weber, 67, a retired state worker from Ionia who calls herself an independent. “I won’t vote for him again. I didn’t like what he did with the taxes.”

Snyder bucked a decades-old trend among states of reducing taxes on retirees. While other issues are stirring the race, Michigan’s 7.7 percent July unemployment rate remained above a 6.2 percent U.S. average, the pension tax is driving a Democratic drumbeat for change in Lansing, where Republicans control all three branches of government.

Until Snyder’s changes took effect, Michigan had exempted most pension payments from the income tax, now at 4.25 percent. He created a three-tier system for retirees born before 1946, after 1952 and those in between. Members of the youngest group were hit hardest; instead of being allowed to exempt $47,309 in retirement income, they’re now taxed fully until age 67. Then, they get a $20,000 exemption.

Michigan’s House Fiscal Agency estimates that the tax cost retirees around $350 million in 2013 alone. And, as everyone knows, seniors vote. We’ll see how the race plays out, but the pension tax increase is sure to be an issue moving forward.