In celebration of Sunshine Week, the Retirement Security Initiative honors and thanks the many people and organizations that bring transparency and openness to our government—not only this week, but every week. Among those are countless reporters, civic groups, schools, non-profit organizations and policy leaders who work diligently to make government more accountable, responsive and accessible to the American people.
When it comes to opening the books on government, we find that unfunded pension liabilities are usually one of the biggest drains on state and municipality budgets. Take California, for example, which this week made public (thanks to new accounting standards) that its local governments are actually tens of billions of dollars more in debt than previously realized because of hidden unfunded actuarial accrued pension liabilities, which are now required to be added to the balance sheets.
And then there are situations, either through simple mistake or blatant misappropriation of taxpayer dollars, where hefty, unearned pension payments have gone unchecked for years. But through citizens’ Freedom of Information Act requests and efforts by various groups and policy leaders to make pension data public, we are starting to have a better understanding of some of the reasons that have caused our current pension crisis. Take, for instance, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel who was successfully able to get all of the public pension funds in his state to post their spending online at OhioCheckbook.com, allowing all Ohio taxpayers to see how their money is being spent.
The Retirement Security Initiative believes that decision making and management of public pension plans should be open, transparent and non-political. And thanks to Sunshine Seekers, this important information is becoming more public every day.