State News

Moore: No need to worry about state pension decline

Posted October 13, 2008 11:52 a.m. EDT
Updated November 28, 2008 6:45 p.m. EST

— North Carolina's public-employee pension funds have dropped in value by at least $6 billion over the last three months.

However, State Treasurer Richard Moore said Monday that the retirement system that supports more than 800,000 current and former state workers is sound. He says retirees should not worry about their monthly pension checks.

"The pension fund of the state of North Carolina and the cities and counties across North Carolina is sound," Moore said. "Retirees out there can rest assured we've got plenty of money, and plenty of money we can lay our hands on, to make their retirement checks come every month just like they're supposed to."

Moore told reporters the pension fund was valued at around $66 billion as of Sept. 30, down from $72 million in June and $78 million a year ago. He said the plan continues to outperform other government pension funds, however, and can pay out all of its benefits. Only a handful of public pension funds nationwide are fully funded.

"We have short-term losses, but those are smaller than most funds of our size because of our conservative asset allocation," he said.

For the year ending Sept. 30, North Carolina's retirement system had a 24 percent loss on its equity returns and a 3 percent increase in bonds.

Moore's figures don't include losses from last week. Unlike most 401(k) plans, the state's pension fund balances aren't broadcast daily, but he said a long-term investment system is better suited to quarterly updates because of the time and money involved in providing daily value estimates.

"I personally have never seen the benefit of spending the people of North Carolina's money to get a day-to-day number that, in a defined-benefit plan, is useless," he said.

Ardis Watkins, legislative affairs director for the State Employees Association of North Carolina, said state workers deserve more updated information. The group, which has frequently criticized Moore, also said he shouldn't have sole control over the pension plan.

"State employees have every reason to watch their retirement system returns more closely than ever," Watkins said.