BY: Steve Wilson |

Even the rosiest of numbers for PERS aren’t kind, yet any major bill in the Legislature this session that mentioned PERS died a death quicker than a red-shirted crewman on a strange planet with Capt. James T. Kirk.

The Legislature couldn’t even pass a bill that would have denied PERS benefits to people convicted of several felonies, including embezzlement.

According to its most recent annual report, the pension system — which serves most state, county and municipal employees — still has $14.4 billion in unfunded liabilities and is still far below the 80 percent funding level, considered a benchmark for a healthy pension fund.

Eileen Norcross, an economist and the program director for the State and Local Policy Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, calls the nationwide pension crisis a “perfect storm of unfunded promises.”

“The defined benefit formula can be prone to manipulation by policymakers and politicians,” Norcross said. “It’s a promise in the future. In the short-term, the accounting can be manipulated, maybe we can skip this year’s payment. The structure of a defined benefit plan makes it prone to abuse.”

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