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KSTP-TV finds big public pension payments — and taxpayers making up shortages

The story finds more than 300 retired public servants in Minnesota get more than $100K per year in pension payments.

A story on public pensions in Minnesota shown Sunday on KSTP-TV said more than 300 retired public workers get more than $100,000 in annual pension payments at a time that the state is struggling to pay for guaranteed pension raises.

That includes a retired Hennepin County worker getting $183,000 a year, a former Wayzata school superintendent with $176,000 a year, a former Hennepin County administrator at $170,000 a year and a retired Ramsey County sheriff with $157,000 a year.

The payments are legal and guaranteed.

Said the story:

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Here’s how a public pension works:  important to know because you help pay for it. An employee contributes 13% of their income to a pension. Their public employer contributes 14%. The money is invested and the gains from those investments make up the remaining 73% of an employees promised pension. If the investment return doesn’t match or exceed what’s needed to make up that 73%, the money must come from somewhere.

Right now, the state is $246 million short of that difference on a yearly basis. Taxpayers make up the rest. One more thing, public employees are guaranteed a return on their investment of 8%. That’s down from 8.5% last year.

While many public employees qualify for two or more pensions, KSTP had trouble finding any who’d talk about “double dipping.” But Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett agreed to an interview. He has a police pension, a legislative pension and will soon qualify for a third pension when he leaves the Ramsey County Board at the end of the year.

Said the story:

Bennett collects $54,000 a year as a retired St. Paul Cop.  Another $17,000 a year for his time as a state legislator and now earns a salary of $84,000 a year as a Commissioner.  When he retires, Bennett will collect a third pension that he is entitled to.  That makes him what some call a triple dipper — something opponents raised when he ran unsuccessfully for reelection as a County Commissioner earlier this year. To his critics he says: “I guess I would say some of them ought to walk in the shoes of the people who have had to do them. I don’t begrudge any police officer or fireman, or soldier today who is getting a pension from anything and what they’ve had to go through.”

State Rep. Morrie Lanning, a Republican from Moorhead, suggested that the state consider lowering the rate of return promised to state employees.