Last year, Republican legislators tried to change the Wyoming Retirement System from a defined-benefit program to one that was based on a defined-contribution model. Because there is no logical reason to change a system that is solvent and well-managed, one must look elsewhere for explanations, musn't one? Blame the Tea Party -- that's what I usually do. True, the Tea Party hates government and government employees. But there are more insidious forces at work.
No, not Agenda 21.
A batch of Republican legislators are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC. The organization, heavily-funded by right-wing gazillionaires the Koch Brothers, drafts model legislation at national gatherings for its stooges to take home to their state legislatures. A series of these bills attempt to end defined-benefit retirement plans and replace them with IRA-style plans funded entirely with employee contributions and managed by an outside party which will rake in millions in fees from the pension fund. ALEC Exposed carries a model bill similar to the one we saw during the 2012 Wyoming Legislature. Go to Public Employees Portable Retirement Option Pro Act Exposed.
The Wyoming Retirement System recently conducted a poll of its members. The findings were announced today and aren't surprising:
A majority of Wyoming Retirement System members indicated their pensions are an important part of their employment benefits and more than half of active members want to keep the current defined benefit plan, results from WRS’ 2012 Member Survey showed.
WRS sent a survey to active members and retirees that asked about demographics, attitudes and beliefs about WRS, customer service, the preferences of a defined benefit versus defined contribution plan and the usefulness of communication resources. The 2012 survey, which was conducted from mid-October through Nov. 20, was the second year WRS surveyed its members.
Regarding their pensions, the survey showed that 82.9 percent of active members indicated their pensions were “very important” or “mostly important” in keeping them in their current employment. The survey also showed that 86.2 percent of retirees indicated their pensions were “very important” or “mostly important” in keeping them in their employment.
The survey also indicated that 58.1 percent of active members said they prefer the current defined benefit plan over a defined contribution plan, and 29.9 percent said they would need more information to decide.
There were 2,338 active members and 582 retirees who responded to the surveys. The following is a summary of the responses.
Active Member Results
Retiree Survey Results:
- Approximately three quarters of respondents were “Positive” or “Mostly Positive” regarding their attitude toward WRS, belief that WRS operates in their best interest and that WRS is financially strong.
- The customer service rating for WRS was favorable overall with 67.8 percent of respondents rating it “Excellent” or “Good.”
The following infographics show the complete results of the surveys:
- 7.3 percent of respondents reported having been a rehired retiree at some time compared to 11.8 percent last year.
- Retirees reported even more favorably than active members regarding their attitude toward WRS (91.1 percent positive), belief that WRS operates in their best interest (88.6 percent agreement) and that WRS is financially strong (87.7 percent agreement).
- The customer service response was very positive, with 90.4 percent of respondents rating it “Excellent” or “Good.”
Phone: (307) 777-7776
Fax: (307) 777-3621; firstname.lastname@example.org
About WRS: WRS administers retirement plans for roughly 42,000 public employees in Wyoming and 23,000 retirees and has approximately $6.5 billion in assets.
Leave Our Wyoming Retirement System The Freak Alone. Feel free to use your own expletive in place of "freak."
More info on the battle to save the state retirement plan at the Coalition for a Healthy Retirement web site.