Just once we would like to read a criticism of the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust Act that examines the new law for what it is instead of attacking it for what it is not. In his diatribe, "Private pension plan would raid taxpayers to fill public pension gap" (Viewpoints, Sept. 29), Frank Keegan brutalizes an imaginary monster of his own creation. If he understood the new law, he might even like it. Why?
It does not cost taxpayers a dime. The only money going into the savings plan would be private-sector employee contributions. Private insurers not taxpayers would bear the risk in the highly unlikely event that the plan does not achieve conservative investment returns.
It will save taxpayers money. California private-sector employees without access to an at-work retirement savings plan typically are lower-income workers whose primary financial asset in retirement will be Social Security, which won't be enough. If they retire with insufficient assets, they will have to rely on public programs in some measure. With sufficient assets, they will participate in the economy and pay taxes. That's a much better deal for California's taxpayers.
The money can't go to California's public pension plans. Keegan clearly has powerful, albeit misplaced, feelings about the state's public pension funds. His assertion that money in state's Secure Choice Retirement Savings Plan would be diverted into public pension funds is a total fantasy. The money would go to the private-sector employees' retirement accounts and to running the program. Nowhere else.
A good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from. It's true that the new law is modeled on my organization's Secure Choice Pension (SCP) proposal. What is ludicrous is Keegan's assertion of some devious conspiracy by my organization, unions and others to "lure money from private workers and business" and divert it to public pension plans.
We offered the SCP as a viable solution to America's private-sector retirement security crisis. State Sen. Kevin de Léon liked major parts of it and incorporated them into his SB 1234. That bill was amended as it went through committees in both chambers. The final version was approved by legislators and sent to the governor, who signed it.
If we at the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) are conspiring to do anything, it's to persuade policymakers in other states to follow California's lead. If we act together and we act soon, America can avert the looming retirement crisis and create retirement security for all.