"What's black and white and read all over?"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Posted 10:21 PM by

Pa. public pension plan doing just fine

I've got a nasty cold, so don't read this with an eye for cohesion. In fact, I openly admit today's post is purely stream of consciousness because I'm writing it under the influence of an over-the-counter drug cocktail. Deal with it or I'll cough on you.

State Employees' Retirement SystemYou can tell I'm on drugs because the first thing I'm going to do is praise - you heard me right - praise the folks running the State Employees' Retirement System. Somehow, they managed to reap a 17.2 percent rate of return last year, earning a whopping $5.2 billion.

Guess those investments in booze, oil, gambling and defense contractor stocks are paying off. Just kidding, the only thing squirrely on a list of the system's investments was just the name "Fidelity Real Estate Opportunistic Income Fund."

But if being oppportunistic pays, more power to 'em. How many of us in the private sector wish we could have done so well with our 401(k)s?

By having such a great year, the system now projects the taxpayers' share toward state employee retiree benefits will cost less than 8 percent of the state's payroll in 2012 - instead of the 28 percent forecasted just five years ago.

If you that forecast was fubared, just ask Philly Mayor Michael Nutter what he's facing thanks to the city's underfunded retirement plan.

Hell, I hope PHEAA hires a few of those SERS folks away. The huge egos over at the student-loan agency, which is suspending its federal loans, could not forsee the subprime mortgage crisis rocking the bond market too and now college students are paying the price. Duh!


This one must be brought to you by the same geniuses who thought it was cool to allow motorcyclists to drive without helmets and don't see a correlation with the resulting increase in brain damage and fatalities.

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board spokesman Nick Hays says the idea of mobile liquor stores is just one of several possibilities the agency is weighing to make wine and hard liquor more available in rural parts of the state, I kid you not.

Believe it or not, that was the best Hays could spin the idea Board chairman P.J. Stapleton mentioned during a Senate hearing on the PLCB's budget, Hays also noted it's not a priority for the agency.

What a state! We can't afford bookmobiles, additional funds for meals on wheels, and are reduced to art on a cart in some school districts, but we can afford to drive around the countryside delivering booze to doorsteps like the milkmen of old?

Money is so tight now, that Gov. Ed Rendell is selling half of his air force - if you can call a two-jet fleet that.

To save money, Fast Eddie want to sell the older and smaller of the two jets, a 1982 Beech King Air 200, for $1.3 million.


In a pair of hearings held in the state Capitol Wednesday, House Republicans criticized what they called weaknesses in the current slots law, while the Senate Appropriations Committee called on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to defend its performance.

Some lawmakers who opposed the state's 2004 legalization of slot machines cited the perjury charges against Mount Airy Casino Resort owner Louis DeNaples as evidence.

"We all look funny with this," Sen. James J. Rhoades, R-Schuylkill, told gaming board members and staff. "Dealing with gaming, we have to be beyond any reproach."

Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, called it a "black mark" as he and other senators asked gaming board officials what changes should be made.

The board's own investigators believed DeNaples lied about his relationship with reputed mob boss Billy D'Elia, but couldn't prove it. They alerted the state police, who began investigating DeNaples, but did not tell the board. Nor did the board subpoena D'Elia before issuing a license to DeNaples on Dec. 21, 2006.


For more about Louis DeNaples and to read my complete take on this long-predicted Slotsylvania snafu, click here.

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