Archived Story

Proposed change to RSA is bad idea

Published 7:59am Wednesday, July 13, 2011

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That old saying came to mind when GOP leaders said they wanted to drastically alter the Retirement Systems of Alabama, the pension plan for teachers and other public workers.

Their plan is to put politicians in charge. They want to remove the current oversight board elected by hard working people participating in the state retirement system, and replace it with a board appointed by some of the state’s most powerful politicians.

Taking the vote away from ordinary folks and putting it into the hands of a select few is wrong. Letting a few politicians get their hands on billions of dollars of hard-earned retirement money is not only ludicrous, but also dangerous.

A politically appointed board is beholden to the politicians that make the appointments. Instead of having a retirement fund looking out solely for the benefit of current and future retirees, it could be affected by political pressure.

Such disasters and corruption have happened in other states. Politically appointed boards in Illinois, New York and California have run into severe trouble when the pension plans took action to benefit elected officials instead of the fiscal responsibility of the system.

Turning the Retirement Systems of Alabama into a piggy bank for governors and politicians is simply wrong. Especially in light of how the current system functions today.

The RSA is rated one of the best-run retirement programs in the country, with strong fiscal health and above average returns on investments. It has amassed a $27.8 billion portfolio, and it pays pension benefits to more than 104,000 retired firefighters, teachers, and police officers each month.

Moreover, RSA has made investments in Alabama that helped our state take giant steps over the past two decades. They have provided financing and capital backing for the auto industry to locate here, moving Alabama from last to second in the number of autos built. RSA was central in attracting ThyssenKrupp and other major manufacturers to Alabama, starting the next generation of industrial development.

RSA has almost single-handedly started Alabama’s modern tourism industry, a sector that is more than eight percent of the state economy. Tourism has more than quadrupled since RSA began building golf courses, resorts, and premium hotels and other facilities that have transformed Alabama into a destination, and changed the image of our state forever.

Having powerful politicians take over this system not only puts the retirement of thousands in jeopardy, but it can also threaten the foundation of much of the state’s economy.

Maybe these politicians trying to take over RSA are following another, more cynical adage.

“No good deed should go unpunished.”

Johnny Mack Morrow is a state representative for Franklin County. His column appears each Wednesday.

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