National Association of State Retirement Administrators

Georgia

Major public retirement systems in Georgia include the Georgia Employees Retirement System and the Georgia Teachers Retirement System. Georgia ERS administers benefits to state employees, including police officers and firefighters. Georgia Teachers administers benefits for certified teachers, university professors, and employees of various educational agencies. The Georgia Municipal Employees Benefit System (GMEBS) administers retirement benefits for employees of local governments that elect to participate.

In 2008, Georgia created a hybrid plan for state employees hired on and after January 1, 2009. The "Georgia State Employees Pension and Savings Plan" provides both a defined benefit plan and a 401(k). As opposed to other hybrid plans, the Georgia plan allows participants to withdraw from the defined contribution portion at any time.

Supplemental retirement plans exist for certain employee groups such as public school employees, judges, and state legislators.

Authorizing Statutes

Georgia State Constitution, Article III, Section X, Paragraph I: “Public funds may be expended for the purpose of paying benefits and other costs of retirement and pension systems for public officers and employees and their beneficiaries.” Paragraph V states:

It shall be the duty of the General Assembly to enact legislation to define funding standards which will assure the actuarial soundness of any retirement or pension system supported wholly or partially from public funds and to control legislative procedures so that no bill or resolution creating or amending any such retirement or pension system shall be passed by the General Assembly without concurrent provisions for funding in accordance with the defined funding standards.

State employees

Pursuant to the constitutional requirement noted above, Georgia Statutes §47-20 et al. require the following:

  • Pension legislation with a fiscal effect may be introduced only in the regular session of the first year of the term of office in the General Assembly, and passed only during the regular legislative session of the second year of the term of office of General Assembly members.

  • Retirement legislation with a fiscal effect may not leave its committee or be considered by the House or Senate unless its actuarial cost has been determined.

  • First-year funding for retirement bills with a fiscal effect must be appropriated in that year, or the bill becomes null and void.

  • The state must maintain minimum funding standards for its pension plans and each year must contribute the pension plan’s normal cost plus the amount needed to amortize the unfunded liability.

Title 47, Chapter 2 of the Official Code of Georgia states: "A retirement system is established and placed under the management of the board of trustees for the purpose of providing retirement allowances and other benefits under this chapter for employees of the state and political subdivisions thereof. It shall have the powers and privileges of a corporation and the right to bring and defend actions and to implead and be impleaded. It shall be known as the "Employees' Retirement System of Georgia," and by such name all of its business shall be transacted, all of its funds invested, and all of its cash and securities and other property held."

Local employees

Article IX of the Georgia State Constitution sets forth the conditions by which Georgia counties may establish a retirement system. Article IX, Section II states:

The governing authority of each county is authorized to fix the salary, compensation, and expenses of those employed by such governing authority and to establish and maintain retirement or pension systems, insurance, workers' compensation, and hospitalization benefits for said employees.

Article IX, Section III states:

The power to maintain and modify heretofore existing retirement or pension systems, including such systems heretofore created by general laws of local application by population classification, and to continue in effect or modify other benefits heretofore provided as a part of or in addition to such retirement or pension systems and the power to create and maintain retirement or pension systems for any elected or appointed public officers and employees whose compensation is paid in whole or in part from county or municipal funds and for the beneficiaries of such officers and employees.

Educational employees

Title 47, Chapter 3 of the Official Code of Georgia states that,
"A retirement system is established for the purpose of providing retirement allowances and other benefits under this chapter for teachers of this state and is placed under the management of the board of trustees. It shall have the power and privileges of a corporation, the right to bring and defend actions, to implead and be impleaded, and shall be known as the "Teachers Retirement System of Georgia," in which name all of its business shall be transacted, all of its funds invested, and all of its cash and securities and other property held."

Board Composition

Plan

Board Size

Appointed

Elected

Plan Members

Ex Officio

Georgia Employees Retirement System

7

4

0

3

3

Georgia Teachers Retirement System

10

8

0

6

2

 

Contributions

Per the U.S. Census, in FY 2014, employer contributions to Georgia state and local government pension plans were 3.45 percent of all state and local government direct general spending.

Constitutional Protections

Article I, Sec. I, Par. X, of the Georgia Constitution prohibits the impairment of contracts. This constitutional provision has been interpreted by the courts to protect retirement benefits. Swann v. Bd. of Trustees, 360 S.E.2d 395 (1987)(holding that where a statute establishes a retirement plan for government employees who contribute toward the benefits and performs services while the statute is in effect, the statute becomes part of the contract of employment so that an attempt to amend the statute violates the impairment clause of the state constitution); Georgia courts have recognized that a retirement plan for government employees becomes a part of an employee's contract of employment if the employee contributes at any time any amount toward the benefits, regardless of whether the employee vests under the plan. "[l]f the employee performs services during the effective dates of the legislation, the benefits are constitutionally vested, precluding their legislative repeal as to the employee, regardless of whether or not the employee would be able to retire on any basis under the plan." Withers v. Register, 269 S.E.2d 431 (1980). (GA CONST., Article 1, §1, 1JX) Source: Robert Klausner, Esq., State Constitutional Protections for Public Sector Retirement Benefits

Flag of Georgia (February 19, 2003)

Population (2016) 10,310,371

Georgia public pension statistics, per U.S. Census Bureau as of FY 2016 ($ in 000s)

Assets

$93,547,192

Active Members

403,940

Annuitants

245,705

Benefits Paid

$6,818,699

Employee Contributions

$869,000

Employer Contributions

$2,920,850

Systems

56

More Data

Other Resources