Buono Wants Investment Chief To Outline Strategies For Pension Fund

Senator Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) speaking at the bill signing for Pension and Benefits Reform.

TRENTON – Senator Barbara Buono today said Monday’s Senate hearing on the State’s investment policy should be focused on what strategies, moving forward, will protect pension fund members after record, multi-billion dollar losses this year.

“There is deep concern and downright fear among workers and retirees alike,” said Senator Buono, the Chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “To ease the fear, we need fact-based assurances that the money will be there for the pension fund members when they need it.”

Senator Buono, D-Middlesex, said the panel wants to hear about current practices and future strategies concerning the State’s pension investment portfolio from William Clark, Director of the Division of Investment.

“We are facing challenges brought on by historic shifts in the market which have had national and international implications,” said Senator Buono. “It’s been tough all around, but we should find out how New Jersey’s portfolio is holding up compared to other states.

Senator Buono also said she was interested in hearing about the performance of the three-year-old Alternative Investment Program which authorized pension funds to be invested in hedge funds, private equity, real estate and commodities.

“We should hear whether encouraging reports about the AIP will be sustainable moving forward,” Senator Buono said.

The panel’s hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Committee Room 4 of the State House Annex.

Senator Buono said she believes the hearing should be devoid of partisanship.

The State Investment Council on Thursday reported losses of $16 billion in the State Pension Fund in the last four months, listing a total for the fund of $61.9 billion as of Oct. 31, down from a total of $82.5 billion in July of 2007.

The pension fund has accounts for an estimated 700,000 working and retired state, county and municipal workers as well as teachers. Pension officials say there is no immediate threat to the estimated 240,000 retirees in the system whose annual payouts total about $5.2 billion.