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LETTERS: NPRI’s divisive study of Nevada PERS overlooks bulk of recipients

To the editor:

The allegedly independent Nevada Policy Research Institute is back to its tired, angry, divisive business as usual. This time, it’s in the form of a new “study” that makes deceptive claims about what most retired public workers receive in income from the Nevada Public Employees Retirement System (“Study: State pensions sweet,” Jan. 22 Review-Journal).

After featuring the report in a banner, front-page story, the Las Vegas Review-Journal the next day acknowledged one of the document’s many misleading weaknesses: NPRI looked at a mere 1.6 percent of all Nevada PERS beneficiaries, all of whom had 30 or more service years in the plan (“PERS official questions payout figures,” Jan. 23 Review-Journal). The study disparaged almost 50,000 PERS beneficiaries — retired teachers, nurses, police officers, university professors and firefighters — after apparently reviewing retirement information related to only about 790 of them, PERS Executive Officer Tina Leiss told the Review-Journal.

Other questionable aspects of the NPRI’s conclusions:

Although 88 percent of Nevada PERS beneficiaries who retired from 2011-13 had fewer than 30 years of service credits, NPRI ignored them and looked exclusively at the 12 percent with three decades or more in the system. In all pension plans — private and public — longer-tenured employees traditionally receive larger payments. So what about the overwhelming majority of Nevada PERS recipients, the 88 percent? NPRI is silent about them.

The truth is that the average Nevada PERS retirement benefit in 2013 was $30,821 a year, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security — hardly enough to allow a retirement in “the lap of luxury,” as NPRI alleges.

The study identified 263 retirees who received more in annual pension income than they did in their final year on the job — about 0.05 percent of all current Nevada PERS recipients. That number simply doesn’t support the report’s sweeping condemnations of nearly 50,000 Nevada retirees.

The Review-Journal’s follow-up story went on to say the NPRI analysis showed that other retirees — notably teachers — receive retirement income far below their base pay. I, however, couldn’t find any information about recipients who worked fewer than 30 years. Again, these workers are overwhelmingly representative of Nevada PERS participants.

Numbers in NPRI’s reports can paint a very different picture when correctly analyzed. Proper comparisons from NPRI’s own research find “Nevada PERS’ retirement income … to be in the bottom 16 percent in the country,” PERS officials wrote in an April 2014 response to a Review-Journal editorial. “Forty-two states provide a higher total income replacement rate [to their retirees] than Nevada PERS does.”

Unlike most credible studies of this type, the seven-page NPRI report offers no information about the methodology used in generating its numbers. Given its long-held political ideology and antagonism toward Nevada’s working families (particularly public employees), it’s appropriate that Nevada politicians and residents ask NPRI how it arrived at and crunched its data.

Our retired teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, bus drivers and other public workers deserve our gratitude, not our attacks. Rather than wasting time on misleading propaganda, why don’t we work together on solutions to ensure a living wage and retirement security for all Nevadans?

TICK SEGERBLOM

LAS VEGAS

The writer, a Democrat, represents District 3 in the Nevada Senate.

Politically correct speech

To the editor:

Last month, we were bombarded by coverage of the tragedies in Paris. The media provided wall-to-wall coverage. Finally, after decades of mumbling about diversity, political leadership is expressing outrage.

One outspoken Dutch mayor, himself a Muslim, said: “If you don’t like freedom, for heaven’s sake, pack your bags and leave.”

Here in America, for the past couple of decades, we the people have had our right to free speech subjected to the doctrine of political correctness. Depending on one’s position on the success ladder, the big people can be personally crucified. The little people are ignored. Anybody can be sentenced to re-education camp for expressing a belief, even if it is the truth.

What I have seen of the Charlie Hebdo satire wouldn’t survive one minute at any of our taxpayer-funded institutes of higher learning. Our politicians and the media refuse to ruffle the feathers of the pampered professors. Any guess as to why that is? On the comics page, progressives are outraged over “Mallard Fillmore,” but uttered not one word about “Doonesbury.”

The hypocrites are winning the war of words.

CURTIS F. CLARK

BOULDER CITY

Stadium plan

To the editor:

It is not ludicrous for Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers and others to try to get a ballot initiative on the downtown soccer stadium. That would allow the people to vote on whether the stadium should be built with our tax money, rather than private money.

What is ludicrous is Mayor Carolyn Goodman and the ruling-class cronies trying to push through another useless expenditure, when the city has already doubled and tripled fees for youth softball, soccer and baseball leagues at all the parks. Now a lot of parents can’t afford those new fees, and the children are back out on the streets, playing unsafely.

The mayor doesn’t want a “world-class city” for us who live here and struggle with all the taxes. She just wants to preen to the rest of the world over useless accomplishments.

Thank you, Councilman Beers, for wanting to keep our taxes low and maybe give us, our kids and our grandkids more reasonable, low-cost activities, instead of a hot, uncovered stadium where we have to pay to sit and passively watch someone else play.

JOANN WYMORE

LAS VEGAS

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