Pension Advisory Working Group Releases Pension Study Report to General Assembly

Published on Monday, February 26, 2024

Providence, RI – Today, Rhode Island General Treasurer James A. Diossa announced the release of the Pension Advisory Working Group’s Report to the General Assembly.

Article 12 of the Fiscal Year 2024 budget called for the General Treasurer to convene an “advisory Working Group” to assess the impact of the 2011 Rhode Island Retirement Security Act (“RIRSA”), and proffer “options for consideration” by the General Assembly. Today, the Group released the final Report, which you may find here.

In 2010, prior to the passage of RIRSA, the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island’s (“ERSRI”) unfunded liability was approximately $7 billion, with just a 48.4% combined funded ratio (representing the percent of the retirement system’s actuarial liability that is covered by assets). RIRSA was intended to foster long-term fiscal stability and retirement security in Rhode Island through sweeping changes to the State’s benefits structure.

“Following instruction from the General Assembly, I empaneled a diverse group of experienced stakeholders who held six public hearings and heard wide ranging testimony and reviewed pertinent data to understand the fiscal and human impact of the RIRSA reforms on retirees, current state employees, and Rhode Island taxpayers,” said General Treasurer Diossa. “After thorough, inclusive, and transparent meetings, today the Working Group has released its Report to the General Assembly. I look forward to serving as a resource to legislators as they review the Report’s findings and consider potential options.”

Over the course of six televised public hearings, the Working Group considered voluminous written and oral testimony from stakeholders and experts concerning the potential impacts and unintended consequences of RIRSA, as well as options that could be considered to improve the state pension system. Collectively, the Working Group heard testimony from over 160 members of the public and 26 different stakeholder groups representing both active and retired members of ERSRI and the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System, state and national organizations interested in pension reform and sustainability, financial and investment professionals, and state and municipal employers.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, this Report assesses “options for consideration” by the General Assembly. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-10.2-11. To facilitate a thorough and transparent review of RIRSA, the Working Group included every option that was proposed, providing the General Assembly with the information necessary to make a considered judgment. The Report also provides a complete actuarial cost assessment for each option considered. It also analyzes several cost considerations that may be associated with legislative change to the pension system, depending on the nature, extent, and funding method of any such change.

The Pension Advisory Working Group consisted of the following members:

Ernie Almonte, CPA – President of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns

Eric Atwater, FSA – Partner, Aon PLC

Patrick Crowley – Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO

Michael DiBiase – President and CEO of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council

Thomas Huestis – Senior Managing Director at Public Resources Advisory Group

John P. Maguire – Active Teacher Representative, Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island Board

Laura Quinby, Ph.D., Senior Research Economist at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research

George Nee – President of the AFL-CIO

Edinaldo Tebaldi, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics and Economics and Director of Strategic Planning & Institutional Effectiveness at Bryant University

Jonathan Womer – Director of the Rhode Island Department of Administration