Efforts are under way to overhaul Rhode Island's state and municipal pensions. The question is whether it is enough, and in time, to help its ailing cities.
On Tuesday, Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit rating for capital city Providence to BBB, just two ratings away from junk bond status. Just one day earlier, city officials unveiled a plan to trim upward of $16 million from its estimated $423 million in pension obligations, with much of those reductions coming from suspending cost-of-living increases as high as 6% per year. Future pensions will also be capped at one and a half times the median state household income (about $55,000).
Providence is hardly alone in facing pension problems. Neighboring Cranston has a mere 25% funding ratio for its pensions, a $245 million shortfall. Estimates for the unfunded liabilities for the 36 Rhode Island municipalities is estimated at between $2.4 billion and $6 billion.