ICYMI: ALEC Sets Its Sights on Public Pensions

October 21, 2013

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded conservative think tank best known for pushing “stand your ground”, voter ID, and anti-union laws, has identified its latest cause célèbre: public pensions.

In addition to listing anti-labor “right to work” laws as one of their 2014 legislative priorities, ALEC is also joining the effort to eliminate public pensions as we know them.

According to the St. Louis Beacon, “‘ALEC encourages more states to consider shifting to “defined contribution plans,’ such as 401Ks, and away from traditional ‘defined benefit plans,’ such as those in Missouri and Illinois.”

Traditional defined benefit plans help to create retirement security for employees, and create long-term economic benefits for the state. Right-wing proposals to eliminate this system have serious consequences for retirees and taxpayers.

When states have adopted pension overhaul legislation, they have found that it came at a significant cost. Alaska and Michigan went down that road and saw their pension debts increase. West Virginia adopted a 401(k)-like plan for public employees in 1991, but reversed course in 2006 after a report found that public employees had such low incomes in retirement that they were eligible for means-tested public programs, driving up costs to the state.

ALEC’s plan to eliminate defined benefit pension plans ignores states’ unique fiscal situations and efforts that many legislatures have already undertaken to strengthen and maintain their public pension plans.

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