Public Statement on the MA Legislature’s Blanket Pension Giveaway

Excerpt:

And it doesn’t apply just to state and municipal workers who had to actually go into work during the pandemic; they must only have “volunteered to work… at their respective worksites or any worksite outside of their personal residence.”  Employees who went in for a single day would also qualify.  So do employees who worked from home but one day when the internet was down went to a family member’s home to work.  (They meet the provision that you did your job from a “worksite outside of [your] personal residence.”)

Administrators, accountants, techies, teachers, finance officers, grant writers, trash collectors and all those paid with public dollars are potentially in line for the benefit.  As currently written, state legislators are eligible to take advantage of the bill.  More than half of the Legislature has signed on to H.2808. Support spans the political spectrum.  The bill may provide a jump in pension benefits for those employed during the pandemic who have already retired.

…..

Pioneer estimates that the bill’s cost would be in the billions of dollars. As of this May, the state pension fund, state Teachers’ Retirement System and the Boston Teachers Retirement system were underfunded by a combined $44 billion.  Annual payments to the systems are scheduled to rise from the current $3.1 billion to nearly $12.4 billion over the next 15 years, and would be even higher under H.2808.  The bill would also further burden over 100 local pension funds in the Commonwealth, many of which are already woefully underfunded.

Author(s): editorial staff

Publication Date: 26 July 2021

Publication Site: Pioneer Institute

Opposition mounts on bill to boost pension payouts for Massachusetts COVID public workers

Excerpt:

Opposition is mounting on a bill that seeks to boost pension payouts for public employees who went to work throughout the pandemic at the expense of billions to taxpayers despite widespread support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The Pioneer Institute, a government watchdog, sounded the alarm with a public statement that estimates the cost of the “broadly” worded bill “would be in the billions of dollars.”

The bill would let public workers cash in on three extra years of service for their pensions when they retire if they worked — or volunteered to work — outside their home anytime between March 10 and Dec. 31 of last year, according to the legislation filed by state Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, D-Gardner, and Sen. John Velis, D-Westfield. Sen. Nick Collins, D-Boston, filed a companion bill in the Senate.

….

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance spokesman Paul Diego Craney echoed Pioneer’s concerns, saying lawmakers “are attempting to boost some of their own pensions in a bill framed as crediting essential workers that risked their health in the earlier days of the pandemic.”

The bill has gained the signatures of more than 100 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons also denounced the proposal on Monday, calling it a “slap in the face” to anyone who lost their job or their livelihood due to COVID-19 emergency regulations.

Author(s): ERIN TIERNAN

Publication Date: 26 July 2021

Publication Site: Boston Herald

The Massachusetts ‘Essential Worker’ Pension Boost Proposal Is A Case Study In Public Pension Failures

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ebauer/2021/08/19/the-massachusetts-essential-worker-pension-boost-proposal-is-a-case-study-in-public-pension-failures/

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Excerpt:

The text of the bill, H. 2808/S. 1669, is brief. All employees of the state, its political subdivisions, and its public colleges and universities, a bonus of three years “added to age or years of service or a combination thereof for the purpose of calculating a retirement benefit,” if, at any point between March 10, 2020 and December 21, 2020, they had “volunteered to work or who [had] been required to work at their respective worksites or any other worksite outside of their personal residence.”

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In subsequent reporting, government watchdog group The Pioneer Institute voiced its opposition. In a statement posted on their website, they criticized the broad coverage — acting as an unfunded mandate for municipalities, including workers even if they had worked outside their home for a single day, encompassing both blue collar and white collar workers. They estimate the bill’s cost at “in the billions of dollars” and point to a massive boost even for a single individual, the president of the University of Massachusetts, whose lifetime pension benefit would increase by $790,750.

…..

And left out of Zlotnik’s proposal is a recognition that the state’s main retirement fund is 64% funded, and the teachers’ fund, 52%, as of 2019.

Author(s): Elizabeth Bauer

Publication Date: 19 August 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Mayor Of Quincy Proposes $400 Billion Bond To Fund Pension Plan

Link: https://patch.com/massachusetts/quincy/mayor-quincy-proposes-400-billion-bond-fund-pension-plan

Excerpt:

The Mayor of Quincy, Thomas Koch, proposed a bond of $400 billion to city council to fund the entirety of the town’s pension plan. Koch’s proposal for this bond includes changing the way Quincy’s pension liability is paid down. Under the new plan, the pension system would be paid all at once, as opposed to a payment annually which can vary in amounts each year.

Koch claims that this new plan and bond will save the city lots of money each year and set a consistent expectation of expenses for pension payments. Quincy’s pensions and health insurance are the largest fixed costs the city has that change annually, so Mayor Koch wants these issues to be top priorities when it comes to discussing the city budget. The proposal was sent on Monday and city councilors sent it to the council’s finance committee, which has yet to schedule a hearing for the proposal.

Author(s): Colin Ames

Publication Date: 7 March 2021

Publication Site: Patch.com

Mass. sanctions against Iran could be tested

Excerpt:

On August 4, 2010, Massachusetts passed “An Act Relative to Pension Divestment from Certain Companies that Invest in the Republic of Iran.”  The act directs the Massachusetts public pension funds to divest from certain companies “providing goods or services deployed to develop petroleum resources in Iran.”

In an effort to avoid conflict with federal policy, the Massachusetts act has two features.  First, it exempts from state divestment “any company” that the US “affirmatively declares to be excluded from” federal sanctions.  Second, the act has a sunset provision.  The act expires if (1) the US “remov[es] Iran from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and certify[ies] that Iran is no longer pursuing a nuclear capability in violation of its international commitments and obligations,” or (2) the president “declar[es] that [the Massachusetts act] interferes with the conduct of the United States foreign policy.”

The Massachusetts Iran boycott has a long pedigree.  In New England and other colonies, the founding generation considered the boycott of English tea and other products to be a wise alternative to war.  Prior to the Civil War, Massachusetts abolitionists urged private boycotts of Southern goods.  In the 1980s, Massachusetts was one of scores of states and cities to enact divestment and selective purchasing laws regarding South Africa.  In 1996, Massachusetts restricted state purchasing from companies doing business in Burma, though the act was later struck down by the Supreme Court.  Massachusetts today maintains laws restricting state investment or procurement with Sudan, China, and Northern Ireland.

Author(s): Thomas A. Barnico

Publication Date: 24 April 2021

Publication Site: CommonWealth

Massachusetts COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

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Excerpt:

COVID-19 vaccination, particularly the disparity of rates between racial and ethnic groups, takes up much of the current talk about the pandemic. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) publishes vaccination data every day, for municipalities, tracking rates by age group, racial and ethnic groups, and by gender.

Pioneer is proud to present a new vaccine tracker, the newest tool in our COVID-19 tracking project. Pioneer distilled the vaccination data down to those who are either fully vaccinated or partially vaccinated, by all the demographic categories published by the DPH. Use the new tool below to compare rates among groups, by municipality and by county. We will update the data every week.

Date Accessed: 20 April 2021

Publication Site: Pioneer Institute

Spring 2021 Meeting: Actuarial Club of Hartford and Springfield

Link: https://actuariesclubofboston.com/Spring-2021-Meeting/

Preliminary Agenda:

Current Schedule:

Week 1
Monday, May 10: (General) Actuarial Transformation: Trends & Insights across Data, Processes, Models, and People

Tuesday, May 11: (Life) Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021: Changes to IRS code Section 7702
Wednesday, May 12: (General/Professionalism) Emerging Professionalism Issues in 2021
Thursday, May 13: (Investments) Macro Economic & Market Update

Thursday, May 13, 4pm EDT: (General) Networking Session
Friday, May 14: (Health) The Role of Behavioral Health‐Now and in the Future

Week 2
Monday, May 17, 9am EDT: (General) Actuaries Working in International Landscape 
Tuesday, May 18: (Health) Health Technology, Consumerism and the Explosion of Telehealth 
Wednesday, May 19: (Pension) New Pension Relief under ARPA: Its Implications for Pension Plans
Thursday, May 20: (Life/Annuities) Mortality Differential by Socioeconomic Categories in the US 
Friday, May 21: (Life/Annuities) Life Reinsurance 101 Panel Discussion 

Date accessed: 6 April 2021

Publication Site: Actuaries Club of Boston

$59 Million Settlement in Pension Plan Outdated Actuarial Assumption Litigation

Link: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/59-million-settlement-pension-plan-outdated-actuarial-assumption-litigation

Excerpt:

A dramatic, recent example of this dilemma occurred in a Massachusetts district court proceeding, when an employer agreed to a $59.17 million settlement in a proposed ERISA class action accusing it of using outdated mortality rates to calculate pensions. Cruz v. Raytheon Co., Mass. Dist. case number 1:19-CV-11425-PBS, Feb. 16, 2021.

The employer had argued in its motion to dismiss that the retirees failed to make the case that the plan violated ERISA by unreasonably using a mortality table created in 1971 and a 7% interest rate to calculate retirees’ alternative annuity benefits it said would be “actuarially equivalent” to the plan’s benefits. The employer argued that its conversion factors for determining the alternative annuity benefits were reasonable and that the retirees were attempting to force their own arbitrary actuarial assumptions. The employer further asserted that under ERISA, employers sponsoring pension plans have wide discretion in determining which actuarial assumptions or conversion factors can be used, requiring only that the single life annuity (SLA) normal form of benefit is equivalent by actuarial standards.

Author(s): Jeffrey D. Mamorsky, Richard A. Sirus, Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Publication Date: 16 March 2021

Publication Site: National Law Review

Study: Graduated Income Tax Proponents Rely on Analyses That Exclude the Vast Majority Of “Millionaires” to Argue Their Case

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Excerpt:

“Professor Young’s wealth migration analyses don’t capture the full breadth of tax flight by million-dollar earners,” said Andrew Mikula, co-author of “Missing the Mark on Wealth Migration: Past Studies Drastically Undercounted Millionaires.” “High-net worth households that do financial planning could move to another state before they sell million-dollar assets. They fly under the radar in Cristobal Young’s work because most of them don’t earn more than $1 million in the year before they leave.”

The graduated income tax proposal advanced by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Service Employees International Union, and other union, advocacy, and religious groups, defines earnings as including salary and capital gains on the sale of assets, which makes net worth a critical component of households subject to the tax.

Publication Date: 25 March 2021

Publication Site: Pioneer Institute

Sooner Or Later, The Supreme Court Will Be Forced To Decide The Tax Future Of 2 Million Workers

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfarmer/2021/03/18/sooner-or-later-the-supreme-court-will-be-forced-to-decide-the-tax-future-of-2-million-workers/

Excerpt:

New Hampshire and Massachusetts are fighting over whether the Bay State still has the right to tax the incomes of 103,000 former commuters now working from home in New Hampshire. But this tax spat deals with issues that spread far beyond the Massachusetts border — it has national implications and could impact millions of Americans.

Because of this, scores of tax organizations and states have filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Granite State. In fact, an analysis by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation estimated at least 2.1 million Americans that previously crossed state lines for work are now working from home in accordance with public health guidelines.

Author(s): Liz Farmer

Publication Date: 18 March 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Report Contrasts State Government and Private Sector Employment Changes During Pandemic

Excerpt:

Massachusetts state government employment has been virtually flat during COVID-19 even as employment in the state’s private sector workforce remains nearly 10 percent below pre-pandemic levels, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. The study, “Public vs. Private Employment in Massachusetts: A Tale of Two Pandemics,” questions whether it makes sense to shield public agencies from last year’s recession at the expense of taxpayers.

“Compared to restaurants, retailers and other businesses, there was very little pressure on state government to cut costs associated with COVID’s economic fallout,” said Serena Hajjar, who authored the study. “The private sector has felt the bulk of the pain of this contraction.”

At one point in April 2020, total employment in Massachusetts was 23 percent below pre-pandemic levels, while at the same time state-level government employment was higher than it was in February 2020.

Author(s): Editorial Staff (press release)

Publication Date: 15 March 2021

Publication Site: Pioneer Institute

MA State Workers Had More Job Security In Pandemic: Study

Link: https://patch.com/massachusetts/boston/ma-state-workers-had-more-job-security-pandemic-study

Excerpt:

 Job losses during the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately hit the private sector workforce in Massachusetts, according to a Pioneer Institute report being released Monday.

The report found the state government payroll has been flat throughout the pandemic, while the private sector workforce remains 10 percent below its pre-pandemic level. At the peak of job cuts last April, the state’s overall unemployment rate was 23 percent, even as state government employment rose higher than it had been in February 2020.

“Compared to restaurants, retailers and other businesses, there was very little pressure on state government to cut costs associated with COVID’s economic fallout,” said Serena Hajjar, who authored the study for the conservative think tank. “The private sector has felt the bulk of the pain of this contraction.”

Author(s): Dave Copeland

Publication Date: 14 March 2021

Publication Site: Patch