Article

Reforming Public Pensions

Reforming Public Pensions

T. Leigh Anenson, Alex Slabaugh & Karen Eilers Lahey

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Pension reform has taken center stage in the public policy debate as states struggle to deal with the fallout from the Great Recession.  The public pension debt crisis jeopardizes the fiscal solvency of states as well as the nation’s long-term financial health.   In this article, we integrate and extend the pension reform movements in law, education and economics by studying teacher pensions across the United States.  Focusing on this vulnerable and important group of government workers, we aim to improve theory and practice by providing a valuable perspective as states reconsider their pension obligations.

We initially estimate the severity of the public pension problem through statistical analyses and comparisons among fifty state plans.  We then evaluate the legality and desirability of existing and proposed reforms.  Significantly, pension reform raises new constitutional questions that are challenging courts to arrive at an acceptable conceptual framework for consistent interpretation and application. With the foregoing financial, political, and legal considerations in mind, we suggest a comprehensive set of reform measures along with a managerial paradigm for political action.  The policymaking methodology directs attention not only to the pension plans themselves, but also to the political reality of their creation and continued operation.  We conclude that a comprehensive response to the public pension crisis is necessary to avert disaster and maintain plan solvency both now and in the future. 

Leigh Anenson, J.D., LL.M., is an Associate Professor of Business Law at the University of Maryland and a Senior Fellow in the Department of Busi-ness Law & Taxation at Monash University. She is also Of Counsel at Reminger Co., L.P.A. She can be contacted by email at lanen-son@rhsmith.umd.edu. Alex Slabaugh, J.D., earned his Juris Doctor de-gree at the University of Akron School of Law and is a Tax Associate with SS&G. Karen Eilers Lahey, Ph.D., is the Charles Herberich Professor of Real Estate in the Department of Finance at the University of Akron Col-lege of Business Administration. 

Cite this article:

T. Leigh Anenson, Alex Slabaugh & Karen Eilers Lahey

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Reforming Public Pensions

, 33 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 1 (2014).