We all need to pay attention to what shape public pensions are in. They make it possible for our retirees to live in dignity instead of poverty.

They add $3.5 billion to the state's economy each year. They are a promise we make to workers for decades of service. They deliver a better benefit at half the cost of 401(k)s.

But a recent article on Minnesota's pension funds ("Minnesota retirement plans are just 75% funded") hit the panic button for no apparent reason. The Legislature and Minnesota's retirement systems constantly monitor the funds. That's why we made adjustments in 2010 and continue to make adjustments.

As a state employee, I now kick in more than I used to -- every paycheck. There is no free ride.

Every employee pays into the plan; most pay 50 percent, and the state pays 50 percent. Overall, taxpayers contribute only 18 cents for every dollar on a pension check.

Two-thirds of the benefits come from investments. As anyone with a mutual fund or CD knows, investment returns and interest rates took a beating in the Great Recession. Losses like that take years to recover.

Patience and a long-term perspective are part of the process. The Star Tribune's recent article had neither.


The writer is a correctional officer at Oak Park Heights state prison and a board member of the Minnesota State Retirement System.