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Florida ranked No. 10 among states with “best-funded” state pensions

Florida has tied with Iowa for having the 10th-best-funded state pension system in the country, according to a recent report by Employee Benefit Adviser.

The Florida Retirement System is 81 percent funded, the report said, though the survey noted it used figures from 2013.

That number differs from the State Board of Administration, which manages the pension plan. It had the system funded at 86 percent by the end of fiscal year 2012-13, and almost 87 percent by the end of 2013-14.

Financial experts generally agree that pension plans are healthy if they’re at least 80 percent funded.

Each rating panel “comes up with their own set of (financial) assumptions,” SBA spokesman Dennis MacKee said.

The state uses numbers from the Revenue Estimating Conference, he said, a panel of executive- and legislative-branch officials. It meets in October to crunch the pension numbers for 2014-15.

States often have different accounting methods, and the people doing rankings usually try to equalize all the various models, resulting in different numbers for the same state from rating to rating, MacKee said.

“I frankly don’t pay much attention to these reports anymore,” he said.

In recent years, House Republicans have tried to close the state pension plan to new hires and force them into a 401(k)-style “investment” retirement plan.

They’ve been concerned about the difference between what the pension pool has and the money it needs to cover current payouts and expected future ones, known as a funding gap.

State employees make up only about a quarter of pension plan members. The others are teachers and local government workers, including firefighters and law enforcement.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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