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Puerto Rico Addresses Collapsing Pension System

Most of the problem centers on two pension systems set up for teachers and for government workers that stopped accepting new beneficiaries in January 2000. Those plans cover more than 273,000 active and retired government workers.

The systems initially allowed employees to retire at age 55 after 25 years of service or at age 58 with 10 years of service. In 1990, legislators amended the law to reduce benefits and increase the retirement age from 55 to 65 years for newly hired workers.

But liabilities kept growing, and legislators scrapped that system in 2000 and created a new one similar to a 401(k)-type plan in which workers must make their own contributions.

While the new system is considered financially secure, the old system's financial problems remain.

In 2010, then Gov. Luis Fortuno warned that the overall state pension system was paying $679 million more a year than it received in contributions.

The problems with the original system have damaged Puerto Rico's bond ratings, which remain significantly lower than any U.S. state, raising the island's cost of borrowing.

Puerto Rico is emerging from a six-year recession and still has an unemployment rate higher than any U.S. state at 14 percent. The island also is trying to reduce its $69 billion public debt and a $1.2 billion deficit.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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