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Blade Editorial Board: New pension chair

When the Ohio House created a pensions committee in January, it looked like a wise decision.

There are multiple issues regarding the pensions state lawmakers should address with legislation.

Both the State Teachers Retirement System and the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund sought big increases from employers (taxpayers) in the last legislative session and are trying again this year. The General Assembly sets the rates.

On Dec. 29 Auditor of State Keith Faber released a special investigation of STRS, questioning the wisdom of large bonuses for state investment managers and indicating that transparency re-quire-ments in alternative investment contracts could be mandated by retirement boards (“No illegal activity in 90B Ohio teacher retirement fund, special audit finds,” Dec. 29). Lawmakers could also make those recommendations a legal mandate.

In May, Gov. Mike DeWine dismissed his own STRS Board appointee Wade Steen, in a move that tests the governor’s legal authority regarding pension board appointments. The issue is now in court but the General Assembly could clarify the governor’s pension appointment power so this doesn’t happen again.

More than $200 billion, ostensibly overseen by state government through the Ohio Retirement Study Council, went years beyond the legal deadline for performing the rudimentary duty of actuarial and fiduciary audits of the pensions. Legislators have done nothing. Clearly the need for legislative oversight is compelling and has gone unmet for many years. The House Pensions Committee has a chance to get it right under new leadership. The chairman, Rep. Bob Young, has been replaced by Rep. Adam Mathews (R., Lebanon).

Mr. Young is currently most notable for the GPS monitor he must wear so police can track his whereabouts at all times. Rep. Young (R., North Canton) was arrested and jailed last week for telephoning a family member with a protection order barring contact.

In July the former Pensions Committee chairman was charged with two counts of domestic violence following an altercation with his wife and his brother. The latest charge is “recklessly violating a restraining order.”

Mr. Young loses the $9,000 additional pay a committee gavel adds to his $69,876 legislative salary.

Mr. Young has not shown the temperament expected in an important oversight position for billions of dollars securing the retirement of well over a million Ohioans. The House Pension Committee hasn’t touched any of the big policy questions confronting the five state funds, focusing on minor administrative issues instead. Chairman Mathews can change that trajectory of failure if he puts the big pension problems on the legislative agenda.

Unless he does, the Pensions Committee is just a waste of time.




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