A new year brings opportunity to help our retirees

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 31, 2019

By Richard Rogers
Executive director, the North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees Association

Say what you will about the state of things in North Carolina, but Florence’s raging floodwaters and fierce winds couldn’t stop us from living out the Golden Rule.

This is especially true for our state’s public servants. Men and women trained to serve under the worst of conditions; our first responders, educators, law enforcement among others built the backbone of hurricane recovery.

Representing more than 300,000 public sector retirees throughout North Carolina, our mission as an association is clear: we are charged to insure the well being of those once employed in public service as well as those currently employed in public service. Our work is to protect those today and for generations to come.

For 2019, an important goal is to make sure all public sector retirees, those from both state and local governments, receive an appropriate cost-of-living adjustment. Local and state government retirees have lost significant pension value over the last 10 years, ranging from 13.5 to 18.5 percent respectively.

The average state public pension is less than $20,000, a meager earning requiring thrifty management. As inflation continues to rise and pensions remain flat, these retirees increasingly compromise their quality of life.

And stagnant pensions affect more than the pensioner; they hurt our communities. Pensions are good for state and local economies. Last year, pensions had almost $7 billion in total economic output, with $1.4 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.

Perhaps the most important goal is to maintain the integrity of our public pensions systems. Recent studies show that providing a pension is a way to both recruit and retain good educators. And North Carolina, with its history of conservative investments for its retirement systems, has safeguarded the public pension to continue providing for generations to come.

Other states, such as Illinois and Kentucky, did not share our investment strategies and oversight, and today are wrought with unfunded liabilities and exhausted assets. This is not the case in North Carolina, where we rank among the nation’s largest and healthiest pensions.

As the Golden Rule is about treating one as one would like to be treated, it’s time to reciprocate with our public sector retirees. May we all live by this same rule as North Carolinians.

We wish you a prosperous and happy 2019.