Millions of Americans work for state and local governments in the United States and are eligible for traditional pensions in retirement. However, many state and local public pension funds are underfunded—some of them severely. In the years since the Great Recession, most public-employee pension plans have changed their policies, such as by adjusting their actuarial assumptions, increasing contributions, and creating new tiers with reduced benefits. Still, challenges remain, as do questions about the sustainability of some of these retirement policies. As contributions have increased, governments have had to make difficult decisions about reducing spending in other areas or increasing revenue. Many public pension governing boards have also turned to riskier, more aggressive investment portfolios. Some state and local governments are facing substantial increases in the costs of their other post-employment benefits as well.

This conference will bring together researchers and practitioners to discuss these challenges of public-employee retirement policies in U.S. state and local governments. Through a series of panels and presentations, conference participants will analyze how these challenges arose and why they persist, ideas and prospects for reform, and what the future holds—and could hold—on this important policy matter.

The conference agenda is below.

Thursday, March 14
Time Content Speakers

8:15 AM

Registration and Breakfast


9:00 – 10:15 AM


Public pensions and OPEBs: The Outlook 

Tom Aaron: VP – Senior Credit Officer / US Public Finance Group, Moody’s Investors Services

Jonathan Moody: Vice President of Research, Equable Institute

Moderator: Sarah Anzia: Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution, and Professor of Public Policy and Political Science, UC Berkeley

10:15 – 10:30 AM



10:30 – 11:45 AM


Frameworks for pension reform

Oliver Giesecke: Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Maria Fitzpatrick: Professor, Department of Economics and Brooks School of Public Policy, Cornell University

Discussant: Rod Kiewiet, Professor, California Institute of Technology

11:45 AM – 12:45 PM



12:45 – 1:45 PM


The Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) - Shared Risk Design Equals Sustainability and Resilience

John Voelker, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds

Moderator: Sarah Anzia

1:45 – 2:00 PM



2:00 – 3:15 PM


Retirement policy design ideas

Joshua Rauh: Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Ormond Family Professor of Finance, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Theo Nijman: Professor of Pension and Risk Management, Instituut GAK, Professor of Econometrics and Finance, Tilburg University 

Discussant: Gopi Shah Goda, Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research

3:15 – 3:30 PM



3:30 – 5:00 PM


Pension politics and law

Dan DiSalvo: Professor of Political Science, Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, City University of New York

Michael Francus: Associate Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

Sarah Anzia: Professor of Public Policy and Political Science, UC Berkeley, Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution

Discussant: Michael Hartney, Hoover Fellow, Associate Professor of Political Science, Boston College

5:00 – 5:30 PM



5:30 PM



Friday, March 15
Time Content  

8:15 AM

Breakfast --

9:00 – 10:15 AM


Pension reform, practitioner’s perspective

Elizabeth Reich, Chief Financial Officer, Dallas Area Rapid Transit

Randall J Dziubek ASA, MAAA, Deputy Chief Actuary, Valuation Services, CalPERS Actuarial Office

Moderator: Sarah Anzia

10:15 – 10:30 AM



10:30 AM – 12:00 PM


Pension finances and funding

Andrew Biggs: Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Amy Monahan: Distinguished McKnight University Professor, The Melvin Steen & Corporate Donors Professor, University of Minnesota Law School

Juliane Begenau: Associate Professor of Finance, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Discussant: Eileen Norcross, Vice President of Policy Research and Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center at George Mason University

12:00 PM




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