“Cash Balance” Retirement Plan Bounces

The Louisiana Supreme Court recently held that the enactment of the “Cash Balance Plan” was unconstitutional. See The Retired State Employees, Association et. al v. The State of Louisiana et. al., 2013-0499, – So.3d -. The Cash Balance Plan is a 401-k style retirement plan that was to be put in place for state employees, including teachers, hired after July 1, 2014.

The key issues in The Retired State Employees litigation were: 1) whether the Cash Balance Plan was a new retirement plan or merely a modification of an existing retirement plan; and 2) whether the Cash Balance Plan had an “actuarial cost.” If the Cash Balance Plan was a new plan or had an actuarial cost, a two-thirds vote would be required to pass the legislation rather than a mere majority of votes under Louisiana Constitution Article X, § 29(F).

The Speaker of Louisiana House of Representatives determined that a mere majority was required to pass the bill (HB 61 (Act 483)) containing the Cash Balance Plan. The bill passed by a majority, but with less than a two-thirds vote and was signed into law on June 5, 2012.

The 19th JDC determined that the Cash Balance Plan required a two-thirds vote to be enacted and was therefore unconstitutional. The Supreme Court granted writs.

The Retired State Employees Court determined that the Cash Balance Plan, even if it was a new plan, was a part of the old retirement system and therefore was subject to Constitutional Article X, § 29(F). Article X, § 29(F) requires a two-thirds vote when there is an actuarial cost related to the bill being enacted. 

The Court reasoned that whether there is an actuarial cost to a bill is a determination to be made by the legislative auditor. While multiple fiscal advisors expressed the opinion that there was no actuarial cost, the legislative auditor determined that the Cash Balance Plan did, in fact, have an actuarial cost. Therefore, a two-thirds vote was required to pass the Cash Balance Plan and its enactment was unconstitutional.

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