A hearing Monday will explore whether the Nebraska Legislature should play a role in the management of locally run pension funds, and to what degree.
Possible outcomes range from mandating a minimum retirement age to ordering governments to meet annual contributions to prohibiting pension plans altogether, said State Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion.
"I don't have the answers," he said, "but if you look across the country, there's anywhere from half a billion to a trillion dollars in unfunded public pensions out there. I don't know to what degree we are at risk in Nebraska, but it's something we need to look at now."
The hearing will be held at the south campus of Metropolitan Community College at 9 a.m. Monday, with time scheduled for public comment.
Among the six scheduled speakers is Donn Jones, an actuary with the SilverStone Group, who will talk about possible processes for moving from pension plans to other retirement plans. He will talk about the ramifications of moving to a defined contribution plan — similar to a 401(k) — and a hybrid plan that combines the two approaches.
Also on the list of speakers is Omaha Finance Director Pam Spaccarotella, who will talk about strategies to increase plan funding levels.
The hearing will cover information collected in a survey of locally controlled pension systems, said State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist: Omaha police and fire, Lincoln police and fire, Omaha civilian, Omaha Public Power District, Metropolitan Utilities District and the Omaha Airport Authority.
According to the survey, Omaha's much-maligned police and fire plan has the lowest ratio of assets to earned pensions, at 43 percent.
The airport authority's plan has the highest ratio, at more than 98 percent. The other three plans range from 60 percent to 88 percent.
"There certainly is a lot of concern in the public about these issues, and I feel like we really need to have an exploration of them," Nordquist said.
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