Senator Dan Liljenquist wins Legislator of the Year

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Governing Magazine recently named Utah State Senator Dan Liljenquist (R-Bountiful) the legislative Public Official of the Year. Dubbed “The Change Agent” by Governing, Liljenquist was honored for his work as the architect of two of Utah’s most significant pieces of legislation in recent memory – pension and Medicaid reform.

The Public Officials of the Year awards – given out to a handful of national leaders every year since 1994 – have become the nation’s preeminent honor for state and local officials. Congratulatory messages came from all over the state and the nation, including Governor Gary Herbert, Senator Mike Lee and Congressmen Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop.

Senator Liljenquist was quick to praise his fellow legislators. “I’m proud of all my colleagues who put long term financial responsibility above short term concerns,” he said. “This is a victory for the State of Utah.”

His colleagues were equally quick to praise him. Senate President Michael Waddoups, (R-Taylorsville), who said “This recognition says a lot about Dan, but it also says a great deal about the State of Utah.  In other places, innovators like Dan are relegated to the back bench.  Here, smart ideas carry the day.” Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero offered his congratulations and remarked: “Senator Liljenquist’s leadership, attention to detail, and focus on fiscal sustainability has served the State of Utah well.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins stated the obvious – that Senator Liljenquist was willing to tackle some of the “sacred cows” in today’s political arena. “Dan has crafted articulate solutions to intractable problems – said by some to be political suicide – and he has done so in a
way that has become model legislation for others to replicate,” said Senator Jenkins. “Fiscal responsibility is an issue that is at the forefront of every state in the nation right now. We can find solutions. All we need is the courage and good will to make them work.”

The Standard-Examiner ran a story with the headline “Sen. Liljenquist tabbed “Best and Brightest” while the Trib noted that “State Sen. Dan Liljenquist was named the top legislator in the United States.” The Deseret News ran a glowing editorial about Utah’s success story, saying in part that “Utah has managed to take care of long-term systemic problems in ways that make other states envious.”

It is this type of real reform and forward thinking that make Utah the best-managed state in the nation. It’s time we had that kind of political courage and leadership in DC.

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13 Responses to “Senator Dan Liljenquist wins Legislator of the Year”

  1. Larry Jensen Says:

    Utah Republicans need to find a way to get Liljenquist to Washington.

  2. Kyle Friant Says:

    Holly-
    I really don’t like Orrin Hatch, but I’d support him over Liljenquist any day of the week. I’d urge you to challenge Senator Hatch and I’d be behind you 110%.

  3. Who mentioned Uncle Rico? Says:

    So far different 35 states have consulted with Dan Liljenquist about pension reform.

    Several states are looking at the Medicaid reform Dan designed and sponsored. The Utah legislature passed the bill unanimously. Every Utah representative, every Utah Senator and the governor supported these reforms, which will save our state 770 million dollars in the next 10 years.

    Dan understands entitlement reform. That is what this award is about, that is what this story is about. There is nothing Hatch or his numerous campaign hirelings can do to take that away from Dan or the people of Utah.

  4. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    His pension reform was little more then cut and paste from ALEC I don’t see where anyone would need to consult him on that. What they did with pensions is disgusting, State lost a lot of good employees that year who had returned to work for the state after their retirement. And cutting the benefits of future hires to divert money to current benefits, when in fact it turns out the pension fund was doing fine(he used an unrealistic return rate of 3% to make things look worse then they in fact were).

  5. youthforeagar Says:

    I agree with Ronald on the pension reform bill personally.

  6. Greg Says:

    Ronald – you have things backwards. ALEC cut and pasted from Dan. Have you even followed this issue? Utah Lost 30% of their pension assets in ONE year. The system was unsustainable – the state would have to sacrifice almost every other program, education, infrastructure, social services, etc. to maintain the pensions you speak so highly of. Utah did what had to be done. The days of Cadillac pensions for government workers while everyone else tightens their belts or does without are gone, a reality even progressives like Jerry Brown are beginning to understand.

  7. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    Utah’s pension fund never went below 80% funded(pensions move between 80% and 120% pretty commonly with number of retiree’s and year to year returns), And even under Dan grossly pessimistic(which by the way have been proved such by the test of time) numbers was at least 20 years out from any problem. And in fact the fund regained much of the lost value in the years following the big crash.

    Cadillac pension.. You understand that pensioners paid double the rate that is paid into a 401K right(8% of their paycheck with 6% state match instead of 401K 4% with 3% match)?, Pension fund also uses a risk pool to provide for better benefits by having a set payout until death instead of a simple savings pool.

    Their is nothing Cadillac about pensions, their just a smart model for retirement insurance. Pensions are the Chevy truck of retirement saving a strong, reliable model. 401K and like accounts are a Yugo. If you want a Cadillac see executive pay and the term golden parachute.

  8. Greg Says:

    Ronald,

    The numbers I quoted are accurate. In 2008 the Utah pension fund lost 4.8 billion from the 2007 total. It is true that this represents a loss of 22%, however the fund was projected to gain 1.7 billion in 2008, leading to a gap in what the fund contained and what the fund needed of 6.5 billion or 30%. So yes, losses in 2008 blew a 30% hole in the Utah pension fund.

    The fund varied from a low of 92.4% to a high of 104% between 2000 to 2007. A far cry from 80% to 120% you claim is commonplace. Do you have sources for those numbers?

    References:

    Wall Street Journal – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703583404576080260001386474.html

    Senator Liljenquist presentation to the NCSL (National Council of State Legislators) in July, 2010 – http://www.ncsl.org/documents/labor/Liljenquist_Pensions_LegSum2010.pdf

  9. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    I do in fact, https://www.urs.org/pdf/SummaryReport/2010/summaryReport.pdf
    from the horses mouth so to speak!

    And that $6.5 billion dollar figure is a complete fabrication, a lie using an unrealistically low return rate of 3% to make the figures look much much worse then they really are.

    The return rate for 2010 was 13.7% well above the 7.75% goal which they had set, which is way above the numbers used to push their pension reform.

    92.4% and 104% are inside the 80% to 120% range used to project a pension funds ability to pay benefits as being safe.(aka that is a good thing). This number comes from dividing current assets by projected cost of benefits, so year to year return rates really make it jump around a lot.

  10. Greg Says:

    The document you linked to ( https://www.urs.org/pdf/SummaryReport/2010/summaryReport.pdf ) supports my assertion that the fund fell short of its projected value by 30% in 2008. Look at the graph in the upper left-hand corner of the second page. The fund contained $20.9 billion as of December 2007. It was expected to grow 7.75% that year for a projected value of $22.5 billion by December 2008. However the fund was worth only $15.9 billion in December of 2008. 15.9 is 70% of 22.5 – there’s the 30 percent shortfall.

    You are correct that that in 2009 and 2010 the fund fared better, however, the fund is still short 6.3 billion dollars. The fund needed to average 7.75 per year as illustrated in the following table:

    2007 – $20.9 billion
    2008 – $22.5 billion
    2009 – $24.2 billion
    2010 – $26.1 billion

    Yet the chart mentioned above indicates that in December 2010 the fund was worth $19.8 billion. The fund was short $6.5 billion in 2008 and as of December 2010 it was still short $6.3 billion. That’s not much to cheer about. If the fund continues to grow at that rate (gaining .1 billion a year above projected returns) it will take another 63 years to make up for the losses incurred in 2008.

  11. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    1. adjust for inflation,
    2. adjust for grow in workforce size
    3. adjust for compounding of earned interest over the 6% figure for future years.

    Benefits earned are $25.7 Billion dollars as of 2010, The actuarial assets held in the system are $21.1 billion dollars, for a short fall of $4.6 billion dollars.

    Here is the real sticking point however, Those benefits are paid out over time, meaning that the fund can continue to collect interest on funds not yet paid as benefits.

    The only case where the funds situation would be a problem is if it was halted entirely and all owed benefits where all paid out as a single lump sum payment.

    Also the fund was originally project to go well over the 100% funding level, the lose from 2007 didn’t cause the fund to be short 30% of the required level to pay beneficiaries, it cause it to be short 30% of a particular projected outcome.

    These are two completely different things and to suggest that they are the same is questionable at best, outright lying at worst.

    The fund as of this year is 82% funded, above the 80% safety mark but close none the less. The fund has between now and some point in the future to fill the gap, which given past performance is very unlikely to be a problem.

    The easiest way to know this entire game is a scam is likely that no attempt was made to go after currently owed benefits, which would be the real problem if the fund was in fact in reality short. No attempt has been made to adjust benefits of current employees, As I understand it the Utah Constitution does provide an out if the fund simply can’t pay the promises benefits(proly has a 2/3 vote req likely making it impossible to use but none the less).

    The bill was entirely about cutting down on the employer match amount the state pays to future employees, finding BS way to avoid paying anyone who has the unmitigated gull to work after age 65, and push a new 401K option.

    The bill was entirely about saving money on the match amount for the pension (6%) by moving people towards a 401K or hybrid 401K (either way 4% contribution with 3% match).

    No provision in the bill takes away any currently owed benefit, or reduces any benefits currently being paid out, or fills the gap that supposedly is their.

    Its a game.

  12. Greg Says:

    Ronald,

    It may be game to you but it is not a game to my children and grandchildren who will have to pay for our generations foolishness.

    The legislation our state passed keeps benefits unchanged for those already in the system, keeping the promises made to current employees and pensioners. It changes the states liability as we move into the future. The first five years of the new system are going to be very tough, then over the next 20 to 30 years as older pensioners stop receiving benefits and new pensioners transition to the new system things get better.

    You may not like the new system, that is your right, but nearly 40 states have consulted with Liljenquist about making the same changes in their states. Even the bluest of states are realizing that current pension models are not sustainable.

    Dan recently related the the story of working with the New
    Hampshire state treasure, Catherine A. Provencher, a solid Democrat in a state with no Republicans elected to state office. She told Dan “I can do math”. She convinced the governor to convene a special legislative specifically to do pension reform – it could not wait for the next regularly scheduled legislative session.

    Even Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown recently announced that California must reform pensions. He has no political incentive to do so, his biggest block of supporters is government worker unions. He too can “do the math”.

    It is hard but it MUST be done.

  13. John Says:

    Yes it’s a sad day indeed when a politician can’t take money from one taxpayer walk over to another citizen, taxpayer or not, and buy their vote with said money. It’s even more sad when they can’t simply borrow the money from future taxpayers to buy votes. How are the poor democrats ever going to get elected without making one person envious of what another has and promising to steal it for them or their kids/grandkids under the guise of compassionate governance.

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