SC pension debt higher than expected

Published: Oct. 27, 2016 at 1:56 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - State lawmakers are now learning the $21 billion pension debt is actually closer to $50 billion.

Auditors said on Wednesday the debt isn't on track to be paid soon enough and that if nothing changes, new money will have to come from taxpayers.

The problem only seems to worsen as details are revealed. A $50 billion gaping hole in funds promised to state employees such as teachers, police, and fireman once they retire.

"We're in an environment of much lower interest rates," Beaufort Representative Jeff Bradley said. "We're in an environment of lower expected returns."

In a pension committee meeting, auditors told everyone that "today's current employees could be making contributions that, unless this is addressed, will not have the assets there to pay their benefits." Representative Bradley could be heard asking who is going to pay for the benefits that were promised. The answer was that is would be "up to the taxpayers who provide the default form of insurance."

The committee's looking to re-model the retirement system completely.

"There's going to be a lot of votes that we're not going to want to take," Senator Kevin Bryant said.

Otherwise, Bradley says newer hires could never see the future benefits they expect.

"We shouldn't make new people come into the plan and today, pay for the sins of their fathers," Representative Bradley said.

But what does reform cost the average taxpayer? The answer isn't clear.

"Well, if nothing changes, we're going to have a big pay date at some point in the future and it's all going to be on the backs of the taxpayers," Representative Bradley said.

The committee chairman hopes bills from the Senate and House will be drafted and ready to go by their first week back in session in the State House in January.

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