Pennsylvania state pension returns 12 percent in 2012

Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:37pm EST

Jan 23 (Reuters) - Pennsylvania's public pension fund for state employees reported on Wednesday that it earned about 12 percent on its investments in 2012, according to an early estimate.

The rate would put Pennsylvania's State Employees' Retirement System well above its 7.5 percent target and add about $3 billion to the $25 billion fund, according to a statement from Anthony Clark, the funds' chief investment officer.

The system ended its fiscal year on Dec. 31, while most major public pension funds ended their fiscal years on June 30.

A 12 percent return could be a sign that large public pension funds are recovering from the heavy blows they took on investments during the 2007-2009 recession.

For many major public pension funds, 2012 was challenging. The $150.6 billion California Teachers pension fund, or CalSTRS, earned 1.8 percent in fiscal 2012.

Various New York City pension funds reported an annual return of 1.7 percent and Florida's $122.7 billion fund grew just 0.29 percent.

Pennsylvania's state employee fund has more than 228,000 members.

Despite the "cautiously good news" about a preliminary 12 percent rate of return, Pennsylvania's system still has an unfunded liability of more than $14 billion, Clark said.

"We remain committed to implementing our strategic investment plan, reducing investment fees and taking whatever other steps we can to ensure the long-term fiscal health of the system," he said.

The fund's board also voted on Wednesday to grant Clark an 8 percent pay raise, effective April 6.

Pennsylvania maintains a separate, $48 billion pension fund for public school employees. That fund returned 3.4 percent in its fiscal year, which ended on June 30.

State budget secretary Charles Zogby warned in November that a combined $41 billion unfunded state pension liability puts even core public services at the risk of being cut.

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