RPEA Legislative Report - February 10, 2023

The Alaska State Legislature has met steadily for nearly four weeks listening to presentations on budgets, debt service, fiscal modeling, and other issues. Unlike other years, there are more questions from legislators concerning the unfunded liability of PERS and TRS.

This coming week, there are two significant hearings devoted to the retirement systems.

First, the Senate Finance Committee will meet Tuesday morning at 9:00 to hear from the Alaska Retirement Management Board (ARMB) with Bob Williams, Chair of the ARM Board, and Pam Leary, Director of the Division of Treasury. Williams was reappointed to the ARMB last year and represents one of two TRS designated seats. The ARMB was created as part of SB 141 in 2005 to oversee the retirement investments and make recommendations for additional appropriations as needed based on actuarial analysis. For the second year in a row, the administration is not recommending any contributions into the health side of PERS and TRS.

Following the ARMB presenters, the committee will hear from the Division of Retirement and Benefits including Director Ajay Desai. The Chief Financial Officer, Kevin Worley, and the Chief Health Administrator, Betsy Wood, will join him.

On Wednesday afternoon, February 15th, the House Finance Committee will meet at 1:30 to hear from the same individuals on the funding status of the retirement systems. Alysia Jones, the Liaison Officer with the ARMB, will also be present.

The AFL-CIO will hold their annual Legislative Conference this week as well, meeting on Wednesday and Thursday. Their agenda includes a detailed look at legislation restoring a defined benefit program for first responders and educators. In addition to the hearings on finances and revenues, legislators have commented and heard from numerous people about the exodus of working-age Alaskans from the state leading to chronic understaffing in both the private and public sectors. Officials tracking vacancies in education, local governments, public safety, public assistance, and other areas cite the lack of a defined benefit as a major reason for recruitment and retention problems. In particular, the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee has devoted several hearings to this important topic.

For a complete list of upcoming committee hearings, go to akleg.gov. You can also watch the proceeding by going to https://www.ktoo.org/gavel/schedule/ or by checking your local television stations.