As you may have heard, many states in our union have budget troubles; one of the biggest problems being underfunded pensions. Reuters reports that estimates put the gap in the range of $700 to $3 trillion. Despite the range being akin to saying, “I’m somewhere between Ohio and Nevada” the shortfall has gotten a whole host of people bent out of shape. It’s gotten so bad that Bill Gates has chimed in, evoking Enron for crying out loud (and here we thought that was only for journalists who cover accounting once every decade).
All this has the GASB to going back to the drawing board as David Bean, the GASB’S Director of research and technical activities, announced that the more disclosures will be proposed this summer. There are plenty of areas that up for debate but Mr. Bean mentioned that certain topics get especially contentious, apparently to the point that it comes to blows.
“Where the fistfights occur is with the discount rate,” Bean said about returns on pension funds’ investments, which affect how well a government can cover those liabilities. The board would require governments to disclose their long-term expected rate of return on plan investments as determined by actuaries, Bean said. “This is the actual expected rate of return as recommended by the actuaries,” he said. “We’re going to make very clear this is not a number that is pulled out of the air. This is based on solid science.”
It’s pretty clear that this problem will only get worse. If you were suddenly told that you had to use science rather than a dartboard, wouldn’t you want to punch someone’s lights out?