South Carolina's pension plan investment projections might or might not be overly optimistic. Whatever the case, Gov. Mark Sanford would be well advised to tone down his rhetoric on this issue.
Sanford has complained for some time that more state money is needed to pay benefits to state retirees because they cannot be met with current investments. But during his recent State of the State address, he took the criticism a step further.
"We are heading toward a disaster on the retirement side, given unrealistically optimistic return projections. What's happening here, I believe, is near criminal."
Officials who run the pension program are justifiably upset about Sanford's comments. While we doubt the governor intended to suggest that criminal activity had occurred at the agency, his language was reckless.
For their part, those in charge of the program said Sanford can't back up his claim. Peggy Boykin, director of South Carolina Retirement Systems, said she has met with the governor and the oversight board he chairs to document how the returns have been calculated.
The state's return rate on its investments "is not only not criminal or near criminal, it is not out of line with the rest of public pension systems around the country," Boykin said.
It is not as if Sanford made his statement off the cuff. It was part of his prepared State of the State speech.
Under those circumstances, we think he should have been more careful in describing the actions of public officials, most of whom, no doubt, are honest and doing their best to serve the state's best interests.
Characterization of retirement fund investment was insult to agency employees