Politics & Policies

Pensions By The Numbers

by Josh Wood Monday November 14, 2011

Dr. Goddard Clark University

This is a short guide to understanding the Rhode Island pension crisis. I’m not a financial guru, so please bear with me.

Here are the numbers

36.34% The state’s contribution rate to state employees’ pensions.1
8.75% The employees’ contribution rate to their pensions. 1
250% The growth rate of news articles that refer to Rhode Island as the already tired phrase:“Athens on the Pawtuxet” – and contribute nothing.

1986 General Assembly begins funding the plan on an actuarial basis. 2
1992 The year that actuarially required contributions to the pension fund were not made – due to the credit union crisis.2
2011 The year I had to look up what “actuarially” meant.

13350 The number of active teachers in Rhode Island. 2
2670 The approximate number of teachers in Rhode Island working second jobs. 3
310,556 The number of times per year teachers are annoyed by someone who assumes teaching is easy.

67% The percentage of Rhode Island government workers in union contracts. 4
67% The percentage of Rhode Island government workers who siphon funds from their earnings into the pension fund. 4
12% The percentage of pension funds siphoned back into the state’s economy via Twin Oaks.

10 cents on every state tax dollar is spent on retired state workers. 5
20 cents on every state tax dollar will be spent on retired state workers if no action is taken to reform pensions in the next six years. 5
30 cents on every dollar is what they’re getting right now for 75 Drachmae. (See the entry: 250%, the growth rate of “Athens on the Pawtuxet” and contributing nothing.)

3% The rate at which COLAs were compounded until late 2009.2
3%/the inflation rate/or lower The current rate at which COLAs are adjusted.2
3% The percentage of Rhode Islanders who think state workers get free cases of Dr. Pepper every year.

1. http://www.treasury.ri.gov/secure-path-ri/bythenumbers.php
2. http://www.treasury.ri.gov/documents/SPRI/TIN-WEB-06-1-11.pdf
3. http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/8782436-423/1-in-5-teachers-needs-a-second-job.html. Based on the national average. The number could actually be higher.
4. http://blogs.wpri.com/2011/11/01/ris-government-unions-second-strongest-in-the-united-states/
5. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/business/for-rhode-island-the-pension-crisis-is-now.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

Photo of Dr. Robert Goddard teaching at Clark University. Credit NASA

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