Saving Ohio Pension Funds

Members of Congress cannot seem to come to agreement on steps to keep programs critical to older Americans, such as Social Security and Medicare, solvent. Yet officials in many states have made the difficult decisions necessary to preserve retirement programs for state employees.

For years it has been apparent the five pension programs for most local and state government workers in Ohio were in trouble. Billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities burden the funds for educators, other school employees, Highway Patrol officers, other police and fire protection workers, and most other state employees.

Without reforms, pension programs for about 1.7 million people already retired or who will be in the next several years will be in jeopardy.

Discussions over what to do about the funds have been ongoing for as long as four years. Some steps to get the programs on fiscal even keels already have been taken.

Finally this summer, members of the General Assembly came to agreement on bills to clear the way for more reforms.

Retirees and those still on public payrolls will have to make sacrifices to keep their benefit funds solvent. Among the changes bills in the General Assembly will authorize are reductions in cost-of-living adjustments and increases in retirement ages.

Unfortunately, reforms have to be instituted. Without them, the funds will pay out more than they take in, and that cannot continue for long. Officials of one of the five funds, the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, have estimated their program loses about $1 million for each day reforms are delayed.

The need for change is clear, then. But for months, legislators delayed taking action on proposed packages of reforms.

Now, finally, agreement seems to have been reached in both the House of Representatives and the state Senate. Votes on pension reform bills could occur this week.

Legislators should approve the package, both preserving retirement benefits for hundreds of thousands of their constituents – and setting a good example for Congress.