John Curry to Governor's aide: A lesson to be learned from Pennsylvania
Mr. Rakes II,
In viewing your reply (copied below [see Tom Curtis: Letter to Governor Strickland, posted 1/8/09]) to STRS retiree Thomas Curtis I sense that neither you nor the Governor wish to address the concept of investment bonuses paid at STRS but rather you suggest possible points of contact for Mr. Curtis's disagreement with the STRS's policy of paying performance bonuses when our retirement system lost approximately 30 billion dollars in investments this past year. This stance insulates you from the responsibility of "taking a stand" on this issue....something you (and the Governor) apparently feel comfortable by doing.
Correct me if I am wrong but..... hasn't Governor Strickland said that a cut in the state budget is necessary as hundreds of millions of dollars need to be removed from Ohio's current state budget so that a balanced budget can be presented to the Legislature? With this mind, consider the bold (and praiseworthy) stance the Governor of Pennsylvania (Ed Rendell-D) has taken (yes, he had the courage)..... a position re. performance bonuses paid to investment associates at Ohio STRS's comparable agency in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System. Below is an article relating to not only the Governor of Pennsylvania's political courage to speak out against their bonuses but also his fellow Democratic Auditor General's position statement re. bonuses paid by their state teachers retirement system. Also, you'll notice that 3 GOP lawmakers also have had the political courage to speak out re. the bonuses.
Mr. Rakes.... governmental leaders on both sides of the aisle in the Keystone State have the political courage to speak out on this issue. It appears as if their counterparts in the Buckeye State have developed a serious case of lockjaw on this same issue, doesn't it?
Below is an article re. the Pennsylvania bipartisan opposition to the payment of performance bonuses by the Pennsylvania's teachers retirement system. Speaking as a retired Ohio educator, I strongly feel that Ohio's governmental leaders could and should learn a lesson from their neighbors to the east.
Thank you for your consideration.
An Ohio STRS benefits recipient
3 GOP lawmakers urge PSERS to rescind bonuses
Of The Patriot-News
Three Republican senators are calling for the rescission of bonuses being paid to the investment staff at the school employees' pension system in a year when the fund lost $1.8 billion in value.
"In our opinion, this is an indefensible position and a gross miscalculation on your part," states a letter sent this week to the Public School Employees' Retirement System Executive Director Jeffrey Clay.
The letter from Sens. Jane Orie of Allegheny County, John Rafferty of Montgomery County and John Eichelberger of Blair County urges the board to reconsider its position on the bonus awards.
The system's board last week voted to end the bonus program as of Dec. 31 because of market conditions. But that decision does not impact the $854,113 in bonuses being awarded to 21 members of the system's investment staff.
The bonuses range from $9,720 to $106,223, with the average being $40,672. That is slightly less than the $46,259 median household income in Pennsylvania.
"In a year when the General Assembly and the governor are cutting funds from budgeted programs; in a year when [legislative and top executive branch officials'] cost of living increases are being returned to the state treasury; in a year when the governor is seeking givebacks from state employees, why should you be any different?" the senators said.
Clay said this week that the system was contractually obligated to pay the bonuses for the past fiscal year since they were provided for in board policy. He said the bonus amounts are based on objective criteria that are independently verified, and that no staff member received the maximum bonus they were eligible to receive.
A spokeswoman for the pension system on Friday declined to comment about the senators' reaction.
Earlier in the week, state Auditor General Jack Wagner also said he was appalled by the bonuses. Wagner, a Democrat, called on the board to recover the bonus money that had been paid to employees.
"A public pension system that lost $1.8 billion has no business awarding bonuses to employees," Wagner said.
Pension system officials pointed out that while the retirement fund lost 2.8 percent of its value in the 2007-08 fiscal year, the in-house investors outperformed their peers nationally. Their peers' median return was a negative 4.56 percent for the same period.
They also noted that the bonuses are intended to supplement the investment staff's base salaries that are below the going rate for professional investors in hopes of encouraging them to get a better investment return.
Gov. Ed Rendell in November urged the system's board to not award bonuses, saying it would be inappropriate in these economic times.
On Friday, Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo was pleased to learn that the Senate Republicans, who often take counter positions to ones advocated by the Democratic governor, shared the administration's outrage over the Public School Employees' Retirement System bonuses.
"We would hope that the PSERS board gets the message," Ardo said.