Legislator believes pension system can be fixed without raising contributions

Published: Sep. 27, 2016 at 7:02 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2016 at 10:49 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Billions of dollars in debt, lawmakers are trying to find the fix to South Carolina's broken retirement system.

In a meeting Tuesday, lawmakers heard testimony from concerned citizens on the problem. The people who spoke are those who draw state retirement and those who will someday such as teachers, firefighters, police officers.

All had with concerns over paying higher rates for a pension.

The meeting lasted three hours with people lobbying against lawmakers raising employee contributions, arguing public safety workers like police, sheriff's deputies, corrections officers, and firefighters already aren't high-paying jobs. They say there's hardly an incentive to recruit workers as it is.

Then, lobbyists for teachers spoke up, reminding the committee it's hard to make a living on a retired teacher's pension.

"The contribution is already so high for our active teachers," retired teacher Rebecca Rochester said. "Most teachers depend on the district and the state to take care of us. We expect them to take care of us. We said we'd work for a lower salary because we love teaching."

That debt the pension review committee is trying to stop from growing is about $20 billion now, increasing each year.

Tuesday's meeting was only an information session for the committee to take notes on what the public said. But the chairman believes there can be a fix without increasing employee contributions.

"I think there's definitely a way," Rep. Bill Herbkersman said. "I mean there's different methods that we're going to attempt to approach. I think our critical approach is going to be to look at what we heard today, the testimony we heard today and take that back, disseminate that and try to use parts of that to alleviate what we're doing."

The chairman said the next step is to form a plan of attack, based on some of the comments they heard Tuesday. There will, of course, be more meetings to come.

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