Lawmakers begin hearings on pension overhaul


Rhode Island lawmakers are returning to the State House for the difficult task of overhauling the state’s public retirement system.

The House and Senate finance committees held a joint hearing Wednesday, examining reasons why the costs of state pensions continue to mount.

The General Assembly plans to convene a special legislative session next month to examine proposals to curb ballooning pension costs.

Top lawmakers say the retirement system must be made sustainable and fair to taxpayers and public workers.

Public workers are watching the debate closely. Sharon Wollschlager is a state health department nurse who says she fears lawmakers will renege on past promises to employees. She is considering retiring now to keep the benefits she’s already earned.

Estimates put Rhode Island’s unfunded pension liability at $7 billion, slightly less than the entire state budget.

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