North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell spoke at the Annual Conference of the North Carolina Council for the Social Studies last week at the Koury Convention Center.

Folwell had good news and bad news for the teachers in the audience.

The good news was that the North Carolina pension fund is the fifth best funded plan in the country. He said the plan, which is the 26th largest publicly funded pension plan in the country, was 88 percent funded.

Folwell also reminded teachers that the plan wasn’t free – that 6 percent of their paychecks went to help fund the plan that pays out $550 million in benefits every month. Folwell said that in some counties the pension plan is the single biggest source of personal revenue in the county and noted that one in 10 households in North Carolina depend on the state pension plan for a portion of their income.

Folwell said that one of the issues he is dealing with is that the pension plan has not met its assumed rate of return for 21 years and he was incrementally lowering the assumed rate of return. But every time it was lowered, the various jurisdictions that pay into the plan had to increase their contribution.

Folwell said the assumed rate of return currently is 7 percent and average rate of return is 6.19 percent.

The bad news was that the state healthcare system was woefully underfunded. He said health care was the only good or service where you didn’t know what you were paying for. Folwell noted that when he asked North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill, which is a state hospital, for an itemized list of what the state had been charged for, he received 300 pages – all of them redacted.

He said, “We are the largest purchaser of health care in North Carolina and we can’t find out what it costs.”

Folwell said what was needed was transparency in in health care. He said, “Give people the tools and power to consume health care like anything else.