While an actuarial analysis of Connecticut’s pension funds isn’t due until after the November election, state Treasurer Denise Nappier announced this week that the two funds posted net investment returns of more than 15 percent for the 2014 fiscal year.
The State Employees’ Retirement Fund saw returns of 15.62 percent and the Teachers’ Retirement Fund saw returns of 15.67 percent. That exceeded the actuarial investment assumption of 8 and 8.5 percent.
Investment gains totaled $3.8 billion and after combined net withdrawals of $760.4 million, including benefit payments, fees, and expenses, the two pension funds jointly had a total value of approximately $26.7 billion as of June 30 — a net increase of $3.06 billion over the previous fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013.
“These two pension funds — representing 91 percent of the state’s pension and trust fund portfolio — profited handsomely from the market’s performance, ” Nappier said in a press release.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy congratulated Nappier in a statement Wednesday.
“This is great news and I want to commend Treasurer Nappier on her good work,” Malloy said.
But Nappier’s Republican opponent, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, said there’s nothing to be cheering about.
“The hard reality is that the State of Connecticut has one of the most underfunded pensions in the United States,” Herbst said. “This press release by Denise Nappier and Dan Malloy is their attempt to try and rewrite the facts.”
The most recent actuarial valuation of the pension funds showed that as of June 30, 2012, the State Employees’ Retirement System was funded at 42.3 percent and the Teachers’ Retirement Fund was funded at 55.24 percent.
That means the State Employees’ Retirement System had $9.7 billion worth of assets, which is enough to cover 42.3 percent of the $23 billion in liabilities. The Teachers’ Retirement Fund did slightly better because in 2008 the General Assembly agreed to put $2 billion on the state credit card to help make payments to the fund. That means the teachers’ fund had $13.7 billion in assets, which is enough to cover 55.24 percent of its $24.9 billion in liabilities. Experts say an 80 percent funding level is considered healthy.
The next actuarial valuation of Connecticut’s funds isn’t expected to be completed until after the November 2014 election, which isn’t unusual because the valuation of the pension funds is conducted every other year.
“Connecticut’s pension fund is funded at 42 percent, one of the worst in the nation, and Denise Nappier and Dan Malloy want us to celebrate?” Herbst asked.
Last year, the funds saw an 11.49 percent return on their investments.
Nappier also noted that the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, which includes the State Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement Fund, and 13 other funds, added $4.15 billion of investment gains to pension assets in fiscal year 2014. After net withdrawals, the fund ended the fiscal year with assets of $29.4 billion — a $3.5 billion net increase from the previous year.
“What is noteworthy about our investment experience over the past five years is that pension fund assets have grown at a faster pace than the payment of benefits and other expenses,” Nappier said. “In light of the State’s significant unfunded pension liability, the substantial growth of the fund assets is good news for its beneficiaries and taxpayers.”
Herbst argued that Nappier uses a higher rate of return than the national average and what has been recommended by the financial rating agencies.
“This continued game of smoke and mirrors actually masks the true unfunded liability which is actually worse than Governor Malloy and Denise Nappier would have us believe,” Herbst said. “This isn’t fair to the retired state workers and teachers that deserve an honest assessment of their retirement security.”