Connecticut Task Force in Extra Innings to Find Pension Fixes

Commission still grappling over plan to tap state assets like office buildings to feed ailing retirement program.

The task force commissioned with studying Connecticut’s $37 billion pension problem was supposed to report its recommendations by January 1, but hasn’t yet finalized its plan.

Assigned with uncovering ways to shore up the Constitution State’s underfunded plans, the Pension Sustainability Commission last week decided to continue into overtime. The main issue the panel is grappling with is how to convert state-owned assets—like office buildings, parking lots, and raw land—into a trust fund that can earn money to feed the pension program

State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a Westport Democrat and the unit’s chairman, said the team should determine a final list of recommendations for the General Assembly within the next several weeks.

Some panelists, however, did not see the possibility in achieving its goal of generating $1 billion in income, doubting that sufficient assets could be found for the trust.

“I’m not sure there are sufficient assets” available for the task, said Ted Murphy, a local real estate professional and committee member.

This was echoed by Erin Choquette, a legislative and policy adviser at the state Department of Administrative Services. 

Implemented in the 2018-19 fiscal budget, the commission was initially scheduled to cease action at the start of the 2019 legislative session. Its goal was to uncover $1 billion in pension savings, but Steinberg knows it’s only a small piece of the solvency puzzle.

“No matter how many assets there are, it’s not solving the entire pension problem,” he said. 

Should the state form the asset trust, it would be the first time any government would do so, according to Michael Imber, a panel member.

Another area Steinberg’s coalition considers is using state lottery revenue to help prop up the $17 billion Teachers Retirement System, a suggestion made by former state Treasurer Denise Nappier. The team is asking Nappier’s successor, Shawn Wooden, for his views on this topic.

The Connecticut state program is 41% funded.

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