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New ORSC member understands situation

May 24, 2011
Salem News

No doubt public employee union officials were upset about Ohio Gov. John Kasich's selection of a new member for the state Retirement Study Council. But Kasich's appointee recognizes the dire straits facing the state's five public employee pension programs, and that is a good thing.

For many years, Ohio has been among states dishing out public employee pensions and retiree benefits taxpayers simply cannot afford. The new ORSC member, former state Rep. Seth Morgan, of Huber Heights, understands that.

One report on Morgan, who is a certified public accountant, labeled him "a tea-party favorite." It is that link, combined with his personal views, that will make him unpopular among public employee union leaders. In a press release issued after his appointment, Morgan stressed that "Ohio's public pension funds need reform to ensure their viability long-term and the protection of Ohio's taxpayers."

As a member of the council, which furnishes legislative oversight of the pension systems, Morgan will be in a position to point out just how underfunded the programs are.

According to the Pew Center for the States, only about two-thirds of the long-term liabilities of the state's pension programs are funded. The center's estimate of unfunded liabilities is a whopping $171 billion.

Pension program officials dispute that, saying the center failed to take the current economic recovery into account. Nevertheless, they agree the programs are underfunded.

And the situation is even worse than a look at funds from which pension checks are written indicates. Retirees also receive health insurance, and that program has an unfunded liability of $43 billion, according to the Pew Center.

Any mention of "tea-party politics" tends to raise the hackles of organized labor officials. But it needs to be kept in mind the tea party movement was founded on fiscal responsibility - and has enjoyed some success because many Americans are becoming aware our states and federal government are spending beyond our abilities to pay. If Morgan can stress that point to Ohio lawmakers - and help convince them to take positive action - he will do an enormous service.



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