Credit Rating Agencies Praise Omnibus Retirement Bill
Good news! Credit rating agencies Standard & Poor's and Fitch announced on July 24, 2019, that they are affirming Minnesota's AAA credit rating, the highest rating awarded by the analysts. The 12-page S&P report devotes an entire page to praise of the 2018 Omnibus Retirement Act, noting (S&P report, page 10):
"Notably, Minnesota has a history of making modest changes to its pension plans every few years through an omnibus retirement bill. Both the house and the senate passed the 2018 Omnibus Retirement Bill unanimously, indicating strong bipartisan support for improving the plans. The 2018 Bill allows that in the future, assumptions for payroll growth, salary increases, and mortality tables can be adjusted by updates to the...(LCPR) Standards for Actuarial Work. This should provide for some greater flexibility to adjust assumptions as appropriate to remain in line with the plan demographics, which we view as a positive for transparency and accuracy of reporting."
Both reports expressed concern that contribution rates are fixed in statute, rather than tied to the actuarially determined contribution (ADC) level. As a result, contributions have "consistently been below the actuarial levels," a "comparative credit weakness" (Fitch report, page 4).
Moody's issued its report on the State on July 25, 2019, giving the State its second highest rating (Aa1). Moody's echoed the concerns about our statutorily fixed contribution rates, stating: "In fiscal 2018, the state's pension contributions were about 70.4% of our "tread water" benchmark... This gap, which is among the largest in the state sector, exposes the state to the potential of a growing liability" (Moody's Report, page 6).