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Nevada PERS shortfall looks better for 2014

CARSON CITY —€” Nevada‘s Public Employees Retirement System in 2013 was a contributor to an overall $968 billion shortfall among 238 public pension systems nationwide, an increase over the previous year of $54 billion, The Pew Charitable Trusts reported Tuesday.

The 2013 data, the most recent available for the group‘s annual report on the financial health of the nation‘s largest public pension systems, showed 22 state plans making improvement over 2012, 19 doing worse and nine statistically unchanged, said David Draine, senior researcher for the public sector retirement systems project for Pew.

Nevada‘s plan, which covers about 100,000 current state and local government employees, worsened slightly in the comparison and stood at 69 percent of full funding in 2013, down from 71 percent in 2013. The long-term unfunded liability was reported at $12.9 billion.

This ratio did improve for PERS in 2014, however, to 71.5 percent, but the 2014 data was not available nationwide for the latest Pew report. The 2015 unfunded ratio will be reported by PERS this fall.

For all the states, the average ratio was reported at 72 percent fully funded, the same as in 2012.

The Pew report: "The State Pensions Funding Gap: Challenges Persist," did contain a glimmer of good news for the county‘s under-funded pension plans.

Draine said the 2014 report is expected to show the pension debt shrinking for the first time since 1999 due both to reforms made to some of the plans and recent high returns on investments.

Yet the study also found that reported state pension debt projected for all states in 2014 is expected to remain over $900 billion and stay at historically high levels as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product.

"€œThe good news from the 2014 data is an expected reduction in states’ unfunded pension liabilities and strong investment returns,"€ said Greg Mennis, director of Pew‘€™s public sector retirement systems project. "€œBut there‘s still a high level of debt, and policymakers cannot count on uncertain returns to close the gap."€

The 2015 Nevada Legislature made some changes to the defined benefit retirement plan for new hires, but a major proposal to shift it to a hybrid plan that would include a defined contribution portion for new hires was not adopted by lawmakers.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.

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