18 January 2010

Wall Street Meltdown Still Haunting West Virginia

West Virginia's invested assets have increased in value by more than 14 percent since the new budget year began June 1, but the massive losses suffered during the financial crisis of late 2008 and early 2009 continue to take their toll, The Associated Press reports.

The Consolidated Public Retirement Board released figures from the just-completed fiscal year, and hiked some employer contribution rates as a result.

The unfunded liabilities -- gaps between on-hand assets and promised benefits -- of its pension plans widened by $2 billion during the budget year. Those liabilities totaled $7 billion as of July 1.

"The plan that provides benefits to 29,245 retired state teachers suffered the worst hit," the article said. "Investment losses left it just 41 percent funded."

That Teachers Retirement System -- one of worst-funded public pensions in the country -- also accounts for $5 billion of the liability total. The meltdown dealt a major setback to a multi-year campaign that pumped more than $1 billion in extra funding into that plan to whack down its liability.

AP had reported earlier that the losses have prompted Gov. Joe Manchin to seek $145 million to shore up the pension funds. About $89 million of that is for the teachers' plan.

The Charleston Gazette reported on the employer contribution increases, while the Charleston Daily Mail registers the "surprise and outrage" from Kanawha County officials over the hikes.

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