State pension reform to go before SC lawmakers

Published: Jan. 11, 2017 at 2:22 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2017 at 11:47 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - One of the biggest challenges facing lawmakers in the 2017 session that began Tuesday is fixing the state's out-of-control pension debt.

It's a debt that is now estimated at more than $20 billion.

It's a topic up for discussion not only at the State House but at an annual meeting of business and industry leaders in Columbia.

A huge problem for lawmakers and one that took on a new dimension on Tuesday is some additional friction between a legislative committee and the state's treasurer.

The South Carolina Business and Industry Political Education Committee gathered at the Marriott downtown Tuesday afternoon for a discussion at the 31st annual meeting of BIPEC. They tackled topics including pension reform. There have been many discussions about the retirement system's skyrocketing debt which is now estimated at around $25 billion with few alternatives in place to reduce it.

A few hours earlier, members of the Joint Legislative Commission on Pension Systems Review took up a proposal that brought a sharp response from state Treasurer Curtis Loftis. The committee is considering a plan to remove Loftis as treasurer from the Retirement Systems Investment Commission. Along with that, they are looking into taking away the treasurer's oversight of retirement funds and transferring it to the Commission and Public Employee Benefit Authority.

Loftis blasted the idea, saying the committee had "repudiated my nationally acclaimed work" on the pension failures.

Pension reform remained on the minds of a BIPEC panel Tuesday afternoon which included comments coming from an analyst who's examined South Carolina's retirement fund crisis.

"What they're going to have to do is spend more money," Anthony Randazzo of the New York-based Reason Foundation explained. "Because the assumptions about the future have been wrong. This is not an issue where it's a matter of tweaking a few assumptions and saving money. It's an issue of recognizing that there have been these assumptions about the future that are wrong and if we adjust them, if we say 'you're right we cannot earn 7.5 percent in the future, actually what's realistic is five or six.'"

Randazzo also said governments, including the state of South Carolina, can also help fix the pension debt by simply stopping the process of putting employees in the retirement plan.

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