South Carolina Budget and Control Board direct Eleanor Kitzman said today she wants to see the results of an independent analysis of the state's retirement system before proposing any long-term changes to benefits, contributions or investments.
Kitzman said she hopes to have the study by Aug. 31.
Changing the benefits of state government workers has become a high-profile issue following union protests in Wisconsin. Gov. Nikki Haley has said she plans changes to the retirement system, saying the state can't afford the benefits it has promised state workers. The biggest of four state pension funds has an estimated $13.4 billion unfunded liability, which is the difference between money currently in the system and the estimated cost of benefits pledged to workers enrolled in the retirement plan.
A state Senate panel is studying the issue with an eye toward ensuring the system's long-term health and reducing the state's cost.
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State workers and retirees are concerned changes to the retirement plan might reduce their benefits, require state employees to work longer before retirement or switch the system from a pension-style payout to a 401(k)-style plan where public agencies commit to matching employee contributions but not to any set benefit.
"I have no preconceived ideas about what the outcome of this is," Kitzman said.
The report will assess how much money the retirement system has; gauge the validity of its assumptions, including assumed investment profits; look at how state employee and taxpayers share the plan's costs; and compare S.C.'s retirement system to other states.
Neither Kitzman nor new S.C. Retirement Systems director William Blume would commit to any changes. Blume told a Senate subcommittee that workers and retirees should support any changes.
"We do need to keep our stakeholders informed," Blume said, "and have buy-in from those people."