Monday, November 30, 2015

Where PA state pension money goes

And why SERS's $12 billion deficit isn't 20-year Chairman Nicholas J. Maiale's fault, he says

Where PA state pension money goes


The $24 billion, ultimately taxpayer-funded PA State Employees' Retirement System has done its annual data dump in Harrisburg, which gives us a lot of information about the increasingly unbalanced (revised) pension fund for 227,000 working and retired Pennsylvanians:

SERS is increasingly dependent on direct state payments and indirect employee contributions, because investment profits have declined over the years. The average state pension is around $24,500/year; though we know some older prison guards and secretaries who retired decades ago get a fraction of that, while recently superannuated ex-college administrators, judges and state reps get much fatter packages. One-page summary here. 

Much more information about all the money spent on private  Pennsylvania and Wall Street money managers and how much profit that didn't produce can be read in the annual SERS Budget Binder here.

- The biggest single chunk of state pension money flows to people in Dauphin County, which surrounds Harrisburg, state government's Ground Zero. Other big retiree concentrations are in Centre County (home to Penn State, which is a big part of SERS), Cumberland County (home to Harrisburg's nicer suburbs), and Allegheney (Pittsburgh) and Luzerne (Wilkes-Barre) counties, where government has replaced factories as the largest employer. Also a lot of money is sent out of state to Florida other retirement havens. Not so many SERS recipients, proportionate to population, live in the Philadelphia area. Map here.

- Nicholas J. Maiale, the former South Philadelphia Democratic state rep, ward leader and lobbyist who's headed the state pension board since it was a lot more solvent 20 years ago, wants everyone to know this mess
isn't his fault. 

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About this blog

PhillyDeals posts interviews, drafts and updates that Joseph N. DiStefano writes alongside his Sunday and Monday columns and ongoing articles about Philadelphia-area business.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn. He taught writing and research at St. Joe’s. He has written for the Inquirer since 1989, except when he left a few times to work at Bloomberg and elsewhere. He wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six kids with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at, 215.854.5194, @PhillyJoeD. Read his blog posts at and his Inquirer columns at Bloomberg posts his items at NH BLG_PHILLYDEAL.

Reach Joseph at or 215 854 5194.

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