Letter: Debate meaningless if data skewed by bias

Relevant to your recent story “Economic development spending questioned,” readers should be made aware of the error made by the advocacy group Good Jobs First in the study referred to in the article.

As reported, the study purports that the two major pension systems in the state, the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System and the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana, that between them have 85 percent of all state system retirement assets, spent $348 million last fiscal year in benefits payouts. This contrasted with an idiosyncratic list of corporate tax subsidies and other alleged tax breaks granted by the state listed in the report that totaled $1.8 billion. This led to the state having the largest percentage “gap” of benefit payouts to corporate tax preferments of 10 states studied.

But either because of ignorance or because it would dilute the ideological message sent in the report, in its calculations, the group used only the “normal cost” or the minimum legally required payment, neglecting the additional payment required by the constitutional imperative to eliminate the unfunded accrued liabilities of each fund by 2029. In reality, according to their annual reports, this means that LASERS and TRSL together paid out in benefits $1.633 billion last fiscal year.

Public policy matters need competent, unbiased research in order to have useful debate about them.

Jeffrey Sadow

associate professor of political science