State and local pension financing in America has reached a crisis level that poses threats to public employees and retirees as well as investors and taxpayers. There were 3,418 state and local government pension systems in the
United States in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. According to PFM, unfunded pension obligations for the 50 states total $833 billion, and this figure is expected to grow in the foreseeable future. Granted, the unfunded obligations that are grabbing headlines come due over a long-term horizon of 30 years or more. However, the concern is valid: Investors worry whether payment obligations to retirees will compete with bond repayment such as was the case in Stockton and San Bernardino; Retirees are concerned that their benefits won’t be available, such as what drove Detroit into bankruptcy; and Taxpayers worry that they will be forced to pay for all of the outstanding obligations of their local governments, including unfunded pension liabilities.
Long-term solvency is achievable and many state and local governments have initiated meaningful change. However, a protracted low earnings environment, weak economy and anti-tax sentiment make the choices difficult. City Club of Denver is pleased to welcome Greg Smith
, Executive Director of Colorado PERA and Chris Blackwood
, Director at PFM to discuss the significant details of PERA’s current status, statewide economic impact, key components of PERA’s future, and the national retirement savings crisis.
About Greg Smith
Gregory W. Smith became Executive Director of Colorado PERA in November 2012. He is the sixth Executive
Director of the retirement system, which has over $43 billion in defined benefit assets and over $3 billion in defined contribution assets. Mr. Smith joined Colorado PERA in February 2002 as General Counsel and in July 2009, he was promoted to the additional role of Chief Operating Officer. As a recognized leader in the pension arena, Mr. Smith has presented and moderated on matters related to pension funds for a variety of organizations including the Fiduciary College at Stanford Law School, National Council on Teacher Retirement, Government Finance Officers Association, and the United States Treasury Department to name a few. Mr. Smith has also testified before various committees, subcommittees, and roundtables of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Treasury Department, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Prior to joining Colorado PERA, Mr. Smith had a distinguished career as a litigation partner at Hamilton & Faatz, P.C. Mr. Smith is a fourth-generation Colorado native and holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Colorado and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver.
About Chris Blackwood
Chris Blackwood serves as a Director for PFM Asset Management LLC in Denver, Colorado. His focus is on providing investment advisory services to governments
and nonprofit organizations throughout the Rocky Mountain region and western United States. He has expertise in developing investment policies, structuring investment portfolios and providing presentations to governing boards. From 2000 to 2010, Chris served as portfolio manager and administrator for two local government investment pools and provided oversight on multiple separately managed accounts totaling in excess of $5 billion. Previously, he served as Chief Financial Economist for Boettcher & Company and Senior Economist to the Governor of Colorado. Mr. Blackwood is a past board member of the Denver Association of Business Economists. He is a frequent speaker at industry organizations and has also authored a number of newsletters and books related to public finance and investment advisory services for government entities. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in Economics from the University of Colorado and has received Executive Education certificates from the University of Denver and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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