Thank you for the editorial (Pensions & Investments, June 10, 2019) regarding auto enrollment for public plans. I have been an advocate of auto enrollment for the last 15 years. Unfortunately, as mentioned, many states have garnishment laws that do not allow auto enrollment for these plans. There have been two separate attempts in Oregon to try to pass legislation to change the law, but it didn't make it out of committee either time, even when we had the support of the public employee pension plan.
I have been a thorn in the side of the National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators as well because I want them to support passing a law at the federal level that would override state law and let public plans start implementing this service. However, as noted in a recent article, "Auto enrollment not an option for most government DC plans," April 29, NAGDCA will not support this as they don't want to try to push federal law on states. While I understand that, I don't know why a state would be reluctant to help employees save more for retirement, thereby needing less state resources. I currently work with a professor at the University of Oregon who sits on my investment committee, and he and I are going to try to introduce new legislation in 2020 in Oregon to get the law changed. I think legislators just need to be educated and understand that it does not force participation on anyone; employers do not have to implement it even if it's available; and employees can opt out. With the changes to the pension plans here in Oregon and in other states, it is imperative that employees save more on their own for retirement. There is no downside to auto enrollment.
Tobias Read, Oregon's state treasurer, who in 2018 won a P&I/DCIIA Innovation Award for creation of OregonSaves a plan for small private-sector employers with no retirement plans, will hopefully be a proponent for us. We will be looking for a legislator to take it forward — so wish us luck. Again, thank you for this editorial and I hope it gets the attention it deserves.
Gay Lynn Bath
Oregon Public Universities Retirement Plans