Pension woes remain in Rhode Island

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May 14, 2011

by Eileen McGuire-Mahony

Providence, RHODE ISLAND: Rhode Island's politicians agree the state's pension system needs solutions, but no one seems to have a good idea how and no one has the $7 billion the fund needs, either. Without at least a partial solution by the conclusion of next year's session, taxpayers will need to come up with more than $620 million for a one-year patch, almost twice what it cost this year.

Governor Lincoln Chafee and State Treasurer Gina Raimondo, however, say they are keen to avoid that. Raimonda recently announced she would not present a reform plan to legislature this year, saying that the very crisis nature of the makes it imperative to take time and get it right. Her office is, though, working on a package to present to lawmakers and it could be ready by the early fall.[1]

Recently, the fruit of a three year study into Rhode Island's pension challenges, the series of changes proposed by the Murphy Commission, failed to make it into law over the protests of public sector workers and their unions. Some recommendations, such as a higher retirement age and a hybrid system for younger workers, didn't get so far as a committee vote. Chafee however, is hopeful. “We have a new governor and a new treasurer now”, he remarked. “This is a new day,”[2]

Some changes did make it through in past years, such as minimum retirement ages, changes to vesting rules, and less generous pensions for younger workers; the restructuring has not, however, been enough so far to resolve the retirement system's shortfall or to brighten the horizon for unfunded liabilities down the road.

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