Retiring in the lap of luxury

Executive Summary

Nevada’s Public Employee Retirement System faces an unfunded liability of over $40 billion, and only once, from 2002 to 2013, has the system made its 8 percent actuarial investment returns needed to meet its future obligations.

That has required pension contributions to police and fire personnel to jump, over that same period, from 28.5 percent of salaries to 40.5 percent. For regular government employees, the PERS contributions from taxpayers and workers rose from 18.75 percent of salaries to 25.75 percent.

PERS has another, systemic problem. Its inflated payouts to retiring workers are the reason it faces such large bills in the first place. Only recently, because of a court ruling last year, has PERS had to release retiree names, payouts, years of service and last employer — allowing systematic, independent study of the payout issue for the first time.

Now, however, the new information — combined with seven years of state and local government salary data on TransparentNevada — makes it possible to create one-to-one comparisons of retirees’ pay vis-a-vis their pensions.

This analysis examines 10 of Nevada’s largest government agencies and compares the full-year equivalent 2013 retirement payouts of 2011-2013 retirees who had 30 years of service or more with their final-year base pay.

The agencies include seven local governments: Clark County, Washoe County, Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Reno and Las Vegas Metro. Also included in the analysis are Nevada’s two largest school districts, Clark County and Washoe County, and the State of Nevada.

For the seven municipal governments, full- career retirees are receiving pensions worth 100.59 percent of their final full year of base pay. For Clark and Washoe County School Districts, that number was 89.14 percent. State of Nevada retirees received pensions worth 83.71 percent of their final base pay . Of all government retirees, police and fire retirees had the highest pensions, which soared to over 114 percent of retirees’ base pay.

Nevada taxpayers are providing extraordinarily high pensions — far above what they themselves can expect upon retirement — to what has become, by stealth, a privileged class.

Download the full analysis

Robert Fellner

Robert Fellner

Policy Director

Robert Fellner joined the Nevada Policy in December 2013 and currently serves as Policy Director. Robert has written extensively on the issue of transparency in government. He has also developed and directed Nevada Policy’s public-interest litigation strategy, which led to two landmark victories before the Nevada Supreme Court. The first resulted in a decision that expanded the public’s right to access government records, while the second led to expanded taxpayer standing for constitutional challenges in Nevada.

An expert on government compensation and its impact on taxes, Robert has authored multiple studies on public pay and pensions. He has been published in Business Insider,, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register,, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, and elsewhere.

Robert has lived in Las Vegas since 2005 when he moved to Nevada to become a professional poker player. Robert has had a remarkably successfully poker career including two top 10 World Series of Poker finishes and being ranked #1 in the world at 10/20 Pot-Limit Omaha cash games.

Additionally, his economic analysis on the minimum wage won first place in a 2011 George Mason University essay contest. He also independently organized a successful grassroots media and fundraising effort for a 2012 presidential candidate, before joining the campaign in an official capacity.