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Day two of David Pecker testimony wraps in NY Trump trial; Supreme Court hears arguments on Idaho's near-total abortion ban; ND sees a flurry of campaigning among Native candidates; and NH lags behind other states in restricting firearms at polling sites.

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The Senate moves forward with a foreign aid package. A North Carolina judge overturns an aged law penalizing released felons. And child protection groups call a Texas immigration policy traumatic for kids.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

National report issues cautionary tale after ND pension overhaul

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Monday, February 5, 2024   

CLARIFICATION: North Dakota will be closing its main public pension plan next year. An earlier version of this story did not indicate that several sectors are exempt. (7:04 p.m. CST Feb. 7, 2024)

Starting in 2025, North Dakota will close its main public pension plan for new hires - who will instead be offered a 401k-style benefit.

National researchers say these decisions are likely to create more problems.

The Legislature last year approved switching to a "defined-contribution plan" for future public workers, amid concerns about the size of North Dakota's pension system shortfall.

The National Institute on Retirement Security is out with a new analysis of similar moves made by other states.

The organization's Executive Director - and co-author of the report - Dan Doonan said there's no guarantee of lasting improvements.

"I think a lot of people think of this as like a fresh start, like, 'Oh, what do we want to offer?'" said Doonan. "But the reality is the existing plan will be there for many decades and still have obligations to pay out current workers and retiree benefits."

The report says among the states analyzed, employer costs increased significantly after closing a pension plan.

Doonan pointed to Alaska, with higher turnover for those hired after its pension plans closed because they might feel undervalued.

That state is now debating whether to switch back. Lawmakers supporting North Dakota's move argued it was thoroughly vetted with long-term thinking. While the state is planning to close the main part of its pension plan, workers from several different sectors will not be impacted.

Meanwhile, Doonan and other skeptics said they worry North Dakota will go down the same path as other states in having to deal with unintended consequences.

He encouraged states to be creative in addressing an underfunded pension system without making a controversial switch.

"We see other places where the benefit designs are designed to share some risk with workers and retirees and that helps them keep costs stable but still offer that core benefit employees like," said Doonan, "that makes it common so that when you walk into a school, the first teacher you meet might have twenty years [of] experience."

Doonan added that states with higher employee turnover after a pension plan has closed are essentially paying to train public workers who might leave for another state.

It's unclear if North Dakota lawmakers will revisit the issue on a larger scale anytime soon. The next scheduled regular session is set for early 2025.




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Creedon Newell practices teaching construction skills in Wyoming's new career and technical educator bridge course, designed to encourage trades students and professionals to pursue a career in CTE teaching. (Photo by Rob Hill)

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