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RI Gov. says pension overhaul plan days away

October 12, 2011

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Wednesday that he is days away from presenting a long-awaited proposal to overhaul the state's public retirement system.

Chafee told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he and Treasurer Gina Raimondo are finalizing the plan's details before submitting it to lawmakers. The state's General Assembly plans to consider the proposal during this fall's special legislative session dedicated to pensions.

While Chafee wouldn't divulge many details of the plan, he said limits to cost-of-living pension adjustments and increased retirement ages for workers now ineligible to retire are under consideration.

Chafee, an independent, said that if nothing is done pensions will strain state and local coffers by consuming more and more tax dollars at the expense of other government services.

He cited the city of Central Falls as an example of what runaway pension costs can do: the city's state-appointed receiver filed for bankruptcy in August on behalf of the city of 19,000 after it began the fiscal year facing an $80 million unfunded pension and benefits liability.

"The state is in charge of Central Falls because of poor management," Chafee said, adding that other cities' pension problems "will come to our door if we don't set certain standards of financial performance."

Estimates put Rhode Island's unfunded liability for public workers' pensions at $7 billion.