September 10, 2019 Print

State and local governments have amassed up to six trillion dollars in unfunded pension liabilities across the United States. In response, Reason Foundation established the Pension Integrity Project to provide customized, expert assistance with systemic pension reform and set local governments on the path to financial solvency.

This groundbreaking initiative offers pro-bono consulting on the design and implementation of pension reforms that improve pension plan solvency, reduce taxpayer risk, and offer expanded choice and security to government employees. To date, Reason has facilitated the passage and implementation of more than forty bills in states like Arizona, Michigan, and Colorado, working with local policymakers to help facilitate bipartisan coalitions and develop policy solutions that are expected to save billions of dollars over the long term.

By establishing a collaborative process that emphasizes shared goals, Reason has—for the first time—united public employee unions and free-market policy experts to produce viable solutions that can be replicated across the nation.

“Sir John Templeton understood that ‘thrift’ is a virtue, whether for individuals or for governments,'' said Reason Foundation president David Nott. “By naming our Pension Integrity Project as a finalist for the 2019 Templeton Freedom Award, Atlas Network is helping Reason Foundation restore thrift to government and expand freedom for future generations of taxpayers.''

The Pension Integrity Project offers legislators, bureaucrats, and stakeholders an integrated approach to reform by conducting relevant data analysis, producing educational material, facilitating outreach, and engaging local decisionmakers. Reason’s engagement work is supported by a strong team of policy and quantitative analysts, allowing them to offer a wide range of pro-bono technical assistance capabilities to policymakers to help them navigate the complex world of pension finance and reform. The pension team builds relationships with motivated customers and earns credibility as technical experts, using data to reinforce why reform is necessary.

An example from Michigan illustrates the impact that the project is having. In 2017, teacher pensions in Michigan were only 60 percent funded, with over $29 billion in unfunded liabilities. Legislators lacked sufficient political support or knowledge to address the system’s worsening financial situation. Reason and a group of local partners provided technical assistance and coalition support, helping to develop a set of policy reforms that reduced risk for taxpayers, stabilized costs, and enhanced retirement security—a win for all parties.

"When you dig into liberty successes around the U.S. you often discover that research from Reason Foundation played a big part," said Atlas Network President Matt Warner. "Their policy team has made a major contribution to our cause, and they deserve our thanks."

“Under-funded public pensions represent a crisis affecting many states across our nation," said Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips. “Reason Foundation’s Pension Integrity Project has proven to be a high leverage project, providing states with roadmaps toward solvency and a strategy for winning buy-in from key constituencies.” 

About Reason Foundation:
Reason Foundation advances a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law. Reason Foundation produces respected public policy research on a variety of issues and publishes the critically-acclaimed Reason magazine. Together, the organization’s top-tier think tank and political and cultural magazine reach a diverse, influential audience, advancing the values of choice, individual freedom and limited government.

About Atlas Network’s 2019 Templeton Freedom Award:

Awarded annually since 2004, Atlas Network’s Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. This prestigious prize honors Sir John’s legacy by recognizing Atlas Network’s partner organizations for exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise and the advancement of public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment. The Templeton Freedom Award is generously supported by Templeton Religion Trust and will be presented during Atlas Network’s Freedom Dinner on Nov. 7 at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. The winning organization will receive a $100,000 prize, and five additional finalists will receive $20,000 prizes.

The finalists for Atlas Network’s 2019 Templeton Freedom Award are:

For media inquiries about the 2019 Templeton Freedom Award, contact Melissa Mann at melissa.mann@atlasnetwork.org or (202) 449-8441.

About Atlas Network:
Atlas Network increases opportunity and prosperity by strengthening a global network of independent civil society organizations that promote individual freedom and remove barriers to human flourishing.