Tuesday, October 9, 2001

State of Hawaii

State pension system
earned $1 billion
in fiscal 2000

By Pat Omandam

Hawaii and Maine are the only states where there is just one statewide government worker retirement system, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau also said investment holdings of state and local government employee retirement systems reached a record high of $2.2 trillion last year -- up $263 billion from 1999.

It is the first time that assets of the state and local government retirement systems passed the $2 trillion mark.

"There were 2,208 public employee retirement systems in the United States in 2000," said census analyst Ben Shelak. "In some states, state and local government employees are consolidated in a small number of statewide systems. In others there are a large number of systems, many of them serving employees of individual local governments."

Officials with the Hawaii Employees' Retirement System did not return telephone calls by the Star-Bulletin seeking comment yesterday.

The bureau reported Illinois has the most government retirement systems, with 377, followed by Pennsylvania, with 360. In 21 states there were fewer than 10 systems, with Hawaii and Maine having only one each serving all state and local government employees.

The report, based on a 2000 nationwide survey of government retirement systems, shows Hawaii's system as having a balance in fiscal year 2000 of $8.4 billion. The breakdown of its portfolio showed the fund had $7.4 billion in securities, $462,723 in cash/deposits and $567,721 in other investments.

As far as returns on investments, the Hawaii ERS earned about $1 billion last year, according to the report.

All of that money pays for state and county pensions of some 232,297 active and inactive members, who in fiscal 2000 received $554,125 in total payments, the bureau reported.

The state Legislature in 1925 created the Employees' Retirement System to provide retirement, disability and survivor benefits for state employees, teachers, professors, county employees, police officers, firefighters, judiciary employees, judges and elected officials.

In recent years, state officials have looked at skimming dividends above a certain percentage from the fund to help offset shortfalls in the state and county budgets.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature encouraged the eight-member ERS board to consider "socially responsible" investments as part of its investment practices.

State of Hawaii

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