Defined Benefits, Undefined Costs

Moving Toward a More Transparent Accounting of State Public Employee Pension Plans

Note from the Digital Editor: In order to highlight the high-level of research and scholarship from the authors who have published in the William & Mary Policy Review’s peer-reviewed print journal, we have reproduced the abstracts from Volume 3, Issue 1 along with a link to an electronic copy of the full form of the piece. 

(Image by Bill Dickinson)

State governments and public pension boards have failed to provide timely and meaningful information regarding the health of their pension plans. Because stakeholders disagree on the method of valuing these pension plans, the public lacks information necessary to develop policy alternatives. Thus, it is the responsibility of the federal government to step in, as it has done with private sector pension plans. An attempt was made with the Public Employee Pension Transparency Act, though that legislation falls short because it lacks a mandate of uniformity. Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statements greatly influence state plans, but they too lack uniform standards. In this article, I propose the Uniform Pension Valuation and Reporting Act (UPVARA), which calls for mandatory uniform valuation and reporting standards. UPVARA also directs plans to report under three separate valuation assumptions, thereby decreasing the acrimonious nature of plan valuation and reporting. UPVARA is therefore a crucial step toward improving the valuation and reporting standards for state public sector pensions.

Find the full version of this article in PDF form here.

Daniel Kaspar is an Assistant Counsel at the National Treasury Employees Union.

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