Moody’s praises Brandes “credit positive” pension transparency bill

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For Florida public employees, government sunshine not only makes pension plans a little easier to understand, but also gives a boost to the state’s economy — all thanks to State Sen. Jeff Brandes from St. Petersburg.

Municipal workers now can get more information than ever about the obligations of their retirement plans — shining the light of oversight more brightly on pension performance. Brandes recently sponsored a bill specifying greater transparency and accountability for more than 400 public pension plans across the state.

Today, credit rating agency Moody’s praised the bill, signed into law May 31 by Gov. Rick Scott, as a “credit positive” reform for the state. 

“Municipal pension obligations are one of the least talked about issues in government, yet they pose enormous risks to Floridians,” Brandes said in a statement. “With increased transparency and more conservative projections, I hope that Florida’s municipalities will be able to avoid the serious challenges facing many other cities around the country.”

The new law requires plan sponsors to provide pension performance information to the Department of Management Systems. They also must make that information available online to employees, as well as provide workers fact sheets and other information.

“This bill is about transparency,” says Rep. Matt Caldwell. “It lifts the veil of misleading actuary figures and gives taxpayers an understandable set of measures for municipal pension plans.  Community leaders and citizens can make real decisions to address the faults in these benefit plans.”

Caldwell, a Republican from Lehigh Acres, co-sponsored the original legislation in the Florida House.

Moody’s said the bill is a credit positive “because it will increase transparency and comparability across plans and incentivize local governments to address their pension challenges.”

Under the new law, reports will be standardized, and workers can compare expected rates of return to actual performance. This gives participants a better say in managing their retirement plans.

“Annual disclosure reports will more accurately reflect the current balance sheet liability associated with the plans,” the Moody’s statement continued, “because they will capture alterations to benefits and contribution rates, employee and retiree demographics, and additional factors that affect plan funded status.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.