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Idaho’s PERSI the ‘envy’ of most other state pension plans

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 19, 2018, 3:38 p.m.

PERSI Board Chairman Jeff Silek, left, and Director Don Drum, center, address the Idaho Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. (Betsy Z. Russell / SR)
PERSI Board Chairman Jeff Silek, left, and Director Don Drum, center, address the Idaho Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. (Betsy Z. Russell / SR)

Idaho’s Public Employee Retirement System is the envy of most other states, with strong investment earnings and a stable funding position, state lawmakers were told Friday.

When Director Don Drum told the Idaho Legislature’s joint budget committee on Friday that “This has been a really good 18 months for PERSI,” some committee members laughed at the understatement. The PERSI fund had a return of 12.7 percent on its investments in the 2017 fiscal year, which allowed it to reconsider a previously proposed rate increase. that fiscal year ended June 30.

And, Drum reported, “As of close of business last night, we had a 10.2 percent return for this fiscal year.”

The PERSI fund is now worth a whopping $17.9 billion.

“I did calculate what it would take to get our amortization period below 10 years,” Drum told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “And if we finish the year with somewhere between 11.5 and 12 percent return, our amortization should drop below 10 years, so that’ very good.”

He added, “At end of year, we were 89.6 percent funded. At close of business yesterday we were close to 95 percent funded. So we’re having a very good year. We had a really good year last year.”

PERSI has about 149,000 members, including active and inactive public employees, at both the state and local government level, who have paid into the system and retirees.