Mossburg column presents a distorted picture of the pension system

Marta Mossburg's recent column on state employee pensions cites the work of Joshua Rauh and Robert Novy-Marx to say how much more Marylanders can expect to pay to "fully fund the system" ("Shifting pension burden means higher taxes," June 5).

To arrive at their specious projections, Messrs. Rauh and Novy-Marx employ a series of assumptions and methods that are both implausible and unrealistic, including projecting future economic growth far below the consensus estimates of recognized economists and assuming future pension fund investment returns of less than half what most investment professionals estimate.

They also limit the state's policy options to raising taxes or cutting spending, ignoring alternatives such as reducing pension benefits, raising employees' pension contributions, or reducing public worker hiring and salary growth — all options that Maryland has employed.

In a 2011 report on state pension plans, Standard & Poor's said that "state governments have a long track record of making adjustments and improving funding ratios." Maryland is no different.

Sun readers deserve fair reporting regarding the cost of funding pension plans — not hyperbole, and not unrealistic projections and unreasonable assumptions used to pursue a particular political agenda.

Keith Brainard, Georgetown, Tex.

The writer is research director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators.

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