State pensions in ‘good shape’
Comptroller’s report recommends ‘tweaks’ to system, not overhaul.
A conservative push to overhaul Texas’ public pensions appears to have fizzled, if comments from state Comptroller Susan Combs on Tuesday are any indication.
“Stability-wise, we’re actually in pretty doggone good shape,” Combs said of Texas’ major statewide public pension plans as she released a report that called for “tweaks” to improve transparency and oversight.
Combs, a Republican who is eyeing a run for lieutenant governor in 2014, said she would remain “agnostic” on whether the public pensions should be converted to retirement plans akin to the 401(k) common in the private sector.
Conservative groups such as the Texas Public Policy Foun- dation have been advocating for such a change. They have pointed to troubles in other states, such as Illinois and California, as an indication pension funds aren’t sustainable.
Talmadge Heflin, director of the foundation’s Center for Fiscal Policy, said Combs’ recommendations for greater transparency and more oversight authority for the Pension Review Board could be a “precursor to an overhaul.”
“The public would get a look at what is inside the pen- sion systems that are out there,” Heflin said. “That then would help the public and the legislators to have a greater understanding of the potential problems that are out there.”
But Heflin acknowledged overhaul is a long-term goal and isn’t likely when legislators return in January.
“You have to be realistic,” Heflin said. “We still believe that reform needs to take place. … You take it a step at a