State pen­sions in ‘good shape’

Comptroller’s report rec­om­mends ‘tweaks’ to sys­tem, not over­haul.

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Kate Alexan­der kalexan­der@states­man.com Pen­sion B

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

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