Fire fighter association protests pension attacks
Newly released data about state and local government pensions contradict statements by politicians who are attacking fire fighters and paramedics with scurrilous statements about pension funding, says the Fairfax, Va.-based International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). In a statement released Feb. 7, IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger says fire fighters and paramedics are being victimized by deceitful politicians and Wall Street opportunists who are lobbying to force fire fighters into retirement plans that will cost workers more in fees and other costs, driving up profits for Wall Street.
IAFF cites a fact sheet and issue brief released Feb. 1 by 10 national, state and local government organizations that concludes that, with more than $2.7 trillion in assets, the overwhelming majority of pension funds are solvent and able to pay the benefits they promised public employees. Retirement systems also make up only about 3 percent of state and local government budgets, according to the fact sheet, released by the Washington-based National Conference of State Legislatures, National Association of Counties, United States Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, International City/County Management Association, the Lexington, Ky.-based National Association of State Auditors Comptrollers & Treasurers, the Chicago-based Government Finance Officers Association, the Alexandria, Va.-based International Personnel Management Association for Human Resources, the Sacramento, Calif.-based National Council on Teacher Retirement and the Baton Rouge, La.-based National Association of State Retirement Administrators.
“Fire fighters and paramedics contribute the vast majority of the funds for their pensions, with an assist from a healthy market over the years that has protected our investments,” Schaitberger said. “The market went in the tank in 2007, soaking all kinds of investments, but most pension funds remain very healthy today.” Schaitberger does say some funds, including New Jersey and Illinois, have diverted money from their required contributions to fund other programs or balance their budgets.
Key facts about pensions cited by the 10 governmental organizations include:
• State and local governments are already taking steps to secure their pensions for the long term.
• Pension dollars help the economy of every jurisdiction.
• Long-term investment returns of public funds continue to exceed expectations.
• State and local government retirement systems do not require, nor are they seeking, federal financial assistance.
“The Wall Street speculators created the worst recession since 1929, and now they and their political allies are looking to take advantage of the situation to shake down worker pension funds,” Schaitberger says. “Fire fighters are out there in their communities, risking their lives and improving the quality of life for their neighbors. We do not deserve to be attacked by politicians looking for a convenient scapegoat for their fiscal problems.”
Download the public pension fact sheet.