The Georgia Senate has passed a bill that would allow the $78.9 billion Teachers Retirement System of Georgia to invest in alternative investments, despite criticism from some state lawmakers that the move would be too risky.
Georgia Senate Bill 294 would amend provisions relating to investments under the state’s public retirement systems standards law. It would change the definition of “eligible large retirement system” to remove the exclusion for the Teachers Retirement System. According to state law, alternative investments by an eligible large retirement system can’t exceed 5% of the retirement system’s assets at any time. The law defines “eligible large retirement system” as any state pension with more than $100 million in assets.
If the proposed bill becomes law, it would allow the system to invest, in aggregate, as much as $4 billion in a range of alternative investments, including leveraged buyout funds, mezzanine funds, workout funds, debt funds, merchant banking funds, funds of funds, and secondary funds.
However some state senators, such as Democratic Minority Leader Steve Henson, have said that now is not a good time to add the possibility of risk to the pension fund, as some economic forecasters have warned of a possible economic downturn in the near future.
“I think the conservative path is to stay the course we have,” Henson said, according to Capitol Beat News Service. “I don’t think now is the time to jump into a riskier market.”
The bill is sponsored by Republican state Sen. Ellis Black, who said the pension fund’s investment managers could help the portfolio earn higher returns by adding alternatives to their investment strategy. Black said concerns about the bill were unfounded.
“You’ve got a whole spectrum of risk involved,” Black said, according to Capitol Beat. “A wise investor is going to have a balanced portfolio.”
TRS manages the retirement accounts of 262,000 active members and pays a monthly benefit to 128,000 retired members and survivors. As of June 30, the pension’s asset allocation was 52.9% in domestic equities, 23.2% in US treasuries, 17.3% in international equities, 6.1% in corporate and other bonds, and 0.5% in international obligations, corporates.
Having passed the state Senate, the bill will now be sent to the Georgia House of Representatives for consideration.