Jacksonville Buyers Beware: Pew Partners with the Arnold Foundation to Bring a Crippling Plan for Public Pensions to Jacksonville

September 13, 2013

Yesterday, the Jacksonville Daily Record reported that Pew Charitable Trusts is dropping into Jacksonville to promote their cash balance overhaul policies as a “solution” to the city’s pension problems.

Despite its credible name, Pew is partnering with the Arnold Foundation – a right wing foundation led by former Enron executive John Arnold – to push a particularly dangerous plan to cripple public pensions all across the country.  Jacksonville leaders should heed the warning of legislators in Kentucky, where Pew and Arnold successfully implemented a devastating plan.

See below is a letter from ten Kentucky legislators outlining the ramifications of the Pew/Arnold initiative:

Dear Fellow Legislator,

We want to bring to your attention the deceptive work that Pew Center on the States is undertaking in states across the country in order to promote their cash balance pension overhaul policy. Pew recently brought its pension scheme to Kentucky, where it duped enough legislatures into passing a bill that will cost taxpayers millions of dollars, will not reduce our state’s unfunded liabilities, and will diminish retirement security. As legislators who recently fought this losing battle against Pew, we felt it our duty to warn legislators across the country about the ramifications of letting Pew into your state.

Pew has a reputation as a non-partisan organization, but that standing is tarnished by Pew’s pension scheme and its unholy alliance with the Arnold Foundation—a group committed to eliminating public pensions. Together, Pew and the Arnold Foundation travel state to state in order to shop around their cash balance plan that hurts workers and taxpayers.

What their PowerPoints and “experts” don’t tell you is that their cash balance plan does nothing to reduce any unfunded liability that your state’s pension plans may carry. Our legislature started considering pension reform in order to address this specific issue, yet there is no legitimate policy in Pew’s plan to start paying down this obligation. In fact, for many states, the cash balance plan will incur additional costs. Moreover, the plan does not address the mounting retirement security crisis that so many of our states are facing. The plan reduces retirement benefits and threatens to retire a generation of workers into poverty.

Pension reform can be an opportunity to protect current and future public workers through thoughtful reform, but that is not what is on Pew and Arnold’s agenda. Instead, Pew and Arnold’s pension reform is a quick fix that will harm future state and local government workers while costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

Pew is good at politics, which is how it gained access and influence in Kentucky, but it is awful at policy. Don’t let Pew and Arnold convince you to pass this harmful reform that will have long-lasting consequences in your state.

Sincerely,

Ray S. Jones, II
State Senator

Jeffrey Martin Donohue
State Representative

Reginald K. Meeks
State Representative

Tom Riner
State Representative

C.B. Embry Jr.
State Representative

Joni Jenkins
State Representative

Mary Lou Marzian
State Representative

Jim Wayne
State Representative

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For more information on Pew’s dangerous plans, please see the National Public Pension Coalition’s primer, the Problem with Pew.

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