From John Curry, June 22, 2011
Cost, time they will take are concerns
Stop the speculation about spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for an independent look at Ohio's public pension systems, state Rep. Kirk Schuring says.
The Canton Republican was responding today to testimony by leaders of those retirement systems that the outside probe could cost more than $1 million and take a year or two.
"I'm very sensitive to the costs and timeline," Schuring said. "We're not going to go into this thing with a blank check." He said he hopes the study can be wrapped up this year.
Instead of taking action today as planned to approve a Request for Proposals to conduct the study, the subcommittee of the Ohio Retirement Study Council chaired by Schuring plans to decide on Tuesday. The council is expected to act at its June 30 meeting.
The five systems - battered by the Great Recession, rising health-care costs and baby-boomer retirements - have drawn up fiscal-solvency plans.
But the General Assembly wants an independent consultant/actuary to examine those plans and numerous related issues before the legislature approves them.
The executive directors of all the systems expressed frustration today with the delay in implementing their solvency proposals, which would raise retirement ages, reduce cost-of-living adjustments and make other cost-saving moves. And the quintet warned that hiring a consultant would hold up implementation even more, duplicate much work already completed, and waste taxpayers' money.
"It's cost-prohibitive, it's time-prohibitive," said Michael Nehf, executive director of the State Teachers Retirement System.
William Estabrook, head of the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund, said he envisions the study lasting well into 2012. He wrote letters to the Senate president and speaker of the House asking them to halt the plan for a consultant.
Schuring asked Estabrook if he truly wants an independent review, "or do you just want us to act unilaterally and do as you see fit?"