Pension Reform News: Hybrid pension proposal falls short in Louisiana, shortcomings of ESG scores, and more
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Pension Reform Newsletter

Pension Reform News: Hybrid pension proposal falls short in Louisiana, shortcomings of ESG scores, and more

Plus: Texas needs to reform teacher pensions, past pension missteps should be a warning to California, and more.

This newsletter from the Pension Integrity Project at Reason Foundation highlights articles, research, opinion, and other information related to public pension challenges and reform efforts across the nation. You can find previous editions here.

In This Issue:

Articles, Research & Spotlights 

  • Louisiana’s Hybrid Pension Proposal Falls Short
  • Shortcomings of ESG Scores
  • A Chance for New Hampshire to Reduce Pension Debt
  • Texas Needs to Reform Teacher Pensions
  • Past Pension Missteps Should Be a Warning to California

News in Brief
Quotable Quotes on Pension Reform
Data Highlight
Contact the Pension Reform Help Desk

Articles, Research & Spotlights

Evaluating the Potential Impacts of Louisiana Senate Bill 438 

Recognizing the need to better accommodate an increasingly mobile workforce, Louisiana legislators are considering a proposal to create a hybrid pension plan for new workers in the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System (LASERS). Senate Bill 438 would place all new hires into a plan that combines a risk-reducing individual investment account with a defined benefit pension structure. Despite the bill’s intentions, Reason’s analysis and testimony find that the structure of the new plan would offer little risk mitigation, add costs, and be a poor fit for the modern worker. 

The Difficulties of Assigning ESG Ratings

Despite concerns with fiduciary priorities, an increasing number of public pension plans are applying environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) policies to their investment strategies. A major part of this trend is the emergence of ESG ratings that attempt to quantify the environmental impact of companies. In an examination of this scoring, Reason’s Jordan Campbell finds companies with a higher market capitalization tend to receive better ratings, raising some questions about the validity of ESG scoring. Do bigger companies truly have a lower impact on the environment, or are they just better equipped to comply with demanding reporting requirements?

Why Paying Down New Hampshire Pension Debt Faster Would Be a Win for Taxpayers 

New Hampshire’s state government holds over $800 million in unfunded pension obligations to public workers and retirees, but lawmakers have an opportunity to significantly reduce this costly debt. With state government revenues currently $382 million above expectations, policymakers should consider using this surplus to close the funding gap of its retirement system to reduce long-term costs and risks to taxpayers. The Pension Integrity Project’s new one-page explainer outlines the benefits of paying down New Hampshire’s pension debt sooner rather than later.

Teacher Retirement System of Texas Can Improve Funding Policies and Plan Design to Benefit Taxpayers, Employees 

Texas policymakers have adopted several major reforms to improve funding and reduce runaway costs associated with the state’s pension plans in recent years. Most notably, 2021 legislation adopted an improved funding policy and established a risk-managed retirement plan for all new workers in the Employee Retirement System (ERS). Now, as Reason’s Steven Gassenberger testified to the State Senate Committee on Finance, Texas policymakers need to make similar reforms to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), which is still chronically underfunded and remains very vulnerable to overly optimistic market assumptions. TRS benefit offerings also need to expand to better serve the mobile nature of educators today.

California Should Learn from Past Mistakes Made with Unfunded Pension Benefit Increases 

California Senate Bill 868 would increase pension benefits for teachers who retired over 20 years ago. The bill aims to counteract the degrading effects that inflation has had on retirees’ pension benefits, but as Reason’s Marc Joffe warns, this benefit increase would come with a high price tag. The pension plan’s actuaries indicate that the move would cost the state $592 million, but this estimation could be too low because it depends on the plan achieving optimistic returns over the next few decades. The proposal would also add to California’s unfortunate history of giving out pension benefit increases without properly funding them, which has generated significant unexpected costs to public employers and taxpayers.

News in Brief

Forensic Analysis of Pension Funding: A tool for Policymakers

A new study conducted by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research (CRR) looks at the role legacy debt plays in the solvency of pension plans in Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Rhode Island. The inception of many public pensions occurred in the early to mid 1900s and there were not the same established norms in funding practices that we see today. Many pension plans had a “pay-go” system where the funding for benefits was not saved in advance. Even those that used an actuarial funding method approached unfunded liabilities very differently, not always including legacy debt as part of the calculation for required contributions. These old funding policies, combined with underperforming investment returns and benefit increases during the 1980s and 1990s, have resulted in several plans holding significant unfunded liabilities that accrued more than half a century ago. On average, CRR reports that legacy debt is 40% of total unfunded liabilities for the five focus states, with some as high as 74% in the case of Ohio. The full brief is available here.

Quotable Quotes on Pension Reform 

“We have a lot of counties and cities that are struggling right now with inflationary costs, and every time the plan doesn’t perform, they have to put in more money.”

— North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell in “Pensions’ Bad Year Poised to Get Worse,” The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2022

“Ultimately at a fiduciary level, if a pension fund’s total worst-case exposure to all earnings and income derived from autocratic nations is an insignificant fraction of its total portfolio, the composite risk is probably not worth losing sleep over, on purely financial grounds. But politics could still enter the theater stage for pension boards that ignore this issue”

– Former GASB board member and ICMA Retirement Corp. President Girard Miller in “Public Pensions’ New Quandary: Coping With Geopolitical Turmoil,” Governing, May 10, 2022

Data Highlight

Each month we feature a pension-related chart or infographic of interest generated by our team of Pension Integrity Project analysts. This month, analyst Jordan Campbell created a visualization of ESG risk ratings for the nation’s largest companies, showing the difference between the S&P 500 and the Russel 2000. 

Chart, scatter chart

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Contact the Pension Reform Help Desk

Reason Foundation’s Pension Reform Help Desk provides information on Reason’s work on pension reform and resources for those wishing to pursue pension reform in their states, counties, and cities. Feel free to contact the Reason Pension Reform Help Desk by e-mail at

Follow the discussion on pensions and other governmental reforms at Reason Foundation’s website and on Twitter @ReasonPensions. As we continually strive to improve the publication, please feel free to send your questions, comments, and suggestions to

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Reason Foundation’s Pension Integrity Project has helped policymakers in states like Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, and Montana implement substantive pension reforms. Our monthly newsletter highlights the latest actuarial analysis and policy insights from our team.

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