State explores increasing funding for pension programs

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(Host) Vermont’s pension funds have been battered by investment losses.

So the state will need to increase funding for its state employees’ and teachers’ retirement systems by more than $31 million next year to keep them in good shape.

Treasurer Jeb Spaulding gave that report to a new commission that’s exploring the future of the funds.

Spaulding says the state can’t rely on the stock market to help resolve its pension issues.

(Spaulding) "We’re now in a situation where we’re likely to have a rather subdued investment climate for the next decade or so and we’re starting to see more and more people retiring and living longer in retirement. And the combination of those two things, I think, means we can’t look at this as business as usual."

(Host) Spaulding says that means the state will have to consider making additional changes to pension benefits.

He says the pension funds may need to raise the retirement age for beneficiaries, and it may have to change benefit and contribution levels.

(Spaulding) "My own position on it is, look, I want to maintain the best possible retirement plan we can have. But we can’t stand by and watch this train go off a cliff. We need to take evasive action now and that probably means sacrifice by all parties and compromise by all parties."

(Host) The special commission is supposed to recommend changes to the Legislature by December.

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