Our local governments are facing multibillion-dollar deficits that will, unless leaders take tough action, continue growing, consuming an ever larger share of taxpayer dollars.
The problem is the pensions due to public employees, a problem that has grown into an actuarial nightmare threatening to affect basic government services. Our elected officials have tried to fix the problems. But they haven't done enough.
The numbers are so big, they're hard to grasp:
-- The state of Ohio faces a gap of $77 billion between what it owes to its five public pension plans and what it has funded. That's more than the gross domestic product of Panama.
The mounting pension liabilities are putting pressure on municipal budgets that are already strained. These pension gaps will continue to be a threat to taxpayers unless legislators summon the will to make more substantial changes.
Some experts, including the Pew Center on the States, point to Rhode Island's reforms as a possible model. Rhode Island suspended cost-of-living raises for retirees until the system is fully funded (that could be decades); raised the retirement age for all workers to be in line with Social Security's guidelines; and created a hybrid traditional-401(k) style plan for current employees, not just new hires.
Legislators need to work up the political courage to take the next step, rationalizing benefits for current workers, before the pension gap saddles future generations with unsolvable financial problems.
The Cincinnati Enquirer