Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System (MOSERS) has a funding deficit exceeding $5.2 billion, Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt told a panel of lawmakers Wednesday.
“The future of the state’s finances are at stake,” Schmitt said at the meeting. “Five billion dollars means we are thousands of dollars in debt for every single Missouri taxpayer. This liability is the number one liability for our state—a problem that, without action, will only get worse and worse every year.”
Schmitt said that MOSERS is currently 60% funded, missing 16 projections in the past 17 years, and considers a pension plan to be healthy when its funded status is 80% or higher.
“So 60% is alarming, but even more alarming is the trajectory,” he said. “In the early 2000s, we were nearly 100% funded. Now, just a few years later, we’re at 60% and falling.”
The treasurer attributed the MOSERS deficit to past administrations for having unreasonably high expectations of investment earnings and expensive investment fees paid by the state that went to Wall Street rather than stay in Missouri. He also called the plan “the number one threat to the state’s AAA credit rating” in a newspaper op-ed, arguing that funding for schools, roads, health services, and other priorities would also suffer should the problem go unaddressed.
Schmitt said he would suggest MOSERS lower expectations for earnings as well as lower its investment fees during Thursday’s meeting.
“This crisis is no longer on the horizon, it is at our doorstep,” Schmitt said. “The future of Missouri’s finances are at stake, and this is a conversation that we need to have.”
MOSERS could not be reached for comment.