8 months, 1 week ago sj-r.com
Debt would have been lower if computation method hadn't been changed
From sj-r.com:Illinois’ pension debt has officially topped $100 billion, according to a new report issued Wednesday.And in a bit of irony, the debt would have been lower if lawmakers hadn’t decided in 2009 to change the way it’s computed — in order to lessen the effects of stock market losses.The report from Auditor General William Holland’s office shows the unfunded liability of the five state-funded pension systems was $100.5 billion as of June 30, the end of the state’s fiscal year. That’s an increase of $5.9 billion from the previous year.However, that’s the deficit as computed using a process called “asset smoothing” in which investment gains or losses are spread over a five-year period. That approach was adopted by the General Assembly in 2009 at a time when the recession was devastating investment income for the systems. The first time the smoothing system was used, it resulted in the pension deficit being $15 billion lower than it would have been otherwise.In the latest report, the pension deficit would have increased only about $668 million, to $97.5 billion, had the smoothing method not been used. That’s a reflection of the significant gains in the stock market in the past year.“The smoothing is intended to even out the extremes,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook, the House Democrats’ point person on pensions.Although some may be tempted to have the state return to the old system, Nekritz said that would be a mistake.“To really be successful at that, we would have to be anticipating the market and I don’t think that’s a task we should be pursuing,” Nekritz said. “Asset smoothing is used by a fair number of pension systems around the country, so it’s not like Illinois is unusual in adopting that method.”The numbers reflect the pension debt before lawmakers approved a pension reform plan.