Rhode Island Is ‘Being Crushed’ By Pension Debt, Treasurer Urges Major Overhaul Of Retirement System

gina raimondo

[credit provider=”Courtesy of WPRI”]

Rhode Island’s retirement system needs a swift and dramatic overhaul to save the state from collapsing under its massive pension debt, according to a new report from state treasurer Gina Raimondo.The report, out yesterday, suggests several radical solutions to the state’s pension woes including, reducing benefits, suspending cost-of-living adjustments, raising the retirement age, and implementing a new “hybrid” retirement system that would couple a smaller pensions with a 401k-style plan.

The report, “Truth In Numbers: The Security and Sustainability of Rhode Island’s Retirement System,” also calls for more accurate and transparent accounting practices to avoid making the overly optimistic assumptions that the pension system has relied on in the past.

Rhode Island’s current unfunded liability is $6.8 billion, according to the state’s retirement board, and some experts argue that it could actually be as high as $9 billion. A recent Boston College study said that, in the absence of a major reform, state’s pension fund could run out by 2023 .

Taxpayer contributions to the pension system doubled from $139 million in 2003 to $302 million in 2010 and are expected to rise $621.8 million by next year, Raimondo said Monday.

“Each day that the state avoids comprehensive reform, the liability grows,” Raimondo, a Democrat, writes. “It is unfair to ask taxpayers to pay for the growing level of required contributions and it is dishonest to let state employees, teachers and retirees believe that full benefits will be there for their retirement. The time to act is now.”

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