SPRINGFIELD - The state's retirement systems all lost money in the troubled financial markets last year, meaning more tax dollars will have to go into those pension programs in the next budget year, according to reports released Wednesday by Auditor General Bill Holland.
The State Universities Retirement System's investment portfolio lost $776 million between June 30, 2001, and June 30, 2002, plus another $659 million between that date and Nov. 8, 2002, Holland reported.
?As far the beneficiaries go, there really is no effect whatsoever,? said Jim Hacking, executive director of the State Universities Retirement System. ?Benefits will continue to be paid, and are constitutionally guaranteed. The consequences of the decline in the funding ratio really are consequences for the state of Illinois in terms of its future contributions to the system.?
The state will have to pay $12 million more than expected into the State Universities Retirement System in the year beginning July 1, $8.2 million of it to make up for the investment losses, he said. The rest is due to beneficiaries living longer than expected, and the fact that participants are tending to retire younger, Hacking said.
The state's total contribution to the State Universities Retirement System in the next budget year will have to be almost $350 million, he said.
Approximately $1.88 billion total in state money will have to go toward the retirement systems in the next budget year, according to Holland's reports.
State money is scarce right about now, with Gov. Rod Blagojevich announcing new estimates this week that the state is facing a potential budget shortfall of $5 billion.
The news for the State Universities Retirement System is better than it is for the other state pension systems, however.
The fund for retired university employees has assets on hand to fulfill nearly 60 percent of its long-term obligations, a drop from a 72 percent funding ratio in 2001, the auditor general's reports said.
That is a higher ratio than the Teachers' Retirement System, the State Employees' Retirement System and the retirement systems for judges and General Assembly members, according to the reports.
The General Assembly Retirement System is in the worst shape, with a 29.3 percent funding ratio, the audits revealed.
?We've been the best funded of the three major contributory systems for a long time,? Hacking said.
A state law enacted in 1996 requires that all of the state's retirement systems reach a 90 percent funding ratio by the year 2045.
The State Universities Retirement System has gone to the courts to seek some of the money it lost in investments in companies who may be at fault, including Enron and WorldCom. The pension fund for state universities lost more than $8 million on Enron and an estimated $35 million on WorldCom.
?All of that is still pending,? Hacking said. ?And I don't expect there to be any resolution of any of that litigation for quite some time.?
The State Universities Retirement System recently filed another lawsuit against Qwest Communications and has been named the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against a company called Peregrine Systems, Hacking said.