Columbia, SC (WLTX)- If the $25 billion deficit in the pension fund wasn't a big enough problem already, now state leaders are ensuing a political power battle over who has a say in the matter.
Earlier this week, the Joint Committee that studies the pension system recommended the removal of the state's treasurer and the state's Fiscal Accountability Authority (headed by the governor), as co-trustees from the board that governs the pension fund.
Treasurer Curtis Loftis has been making noise ever since the announcement of that proposal on Monday.
"It's all about power and money and it is the biggest game in this state," Loftis said. "You'll hear members in the General Assembly arguing over 20 million dollars with an 'M.' This is 25 billion with a 'B.'
The committee said in doing so, they can streamline their approach to reform and reduce the conflicts that are currently present.
The 3-page document of recommendations stated to "simplify and clarify fiduciary governance by reducing conflicts and overlapping authority."
Sen. Vincent Sheheen who sits on that committee said it is not a final decision.
"The decision in the past has been to have a designees, not the officials except for the the treasurer," Sheheen said. "That's the question: Does it make sense to have one elected official when the rest are appointed by the public officials? or is it okay to have that mix?"
Economist and Professor at University of South Carolina Bob Hartwig said in order for a problem this big to be solved, all parties of the government need to be working together.
"Unfortunately to eliminate a deficit of that magnitude, it is going to take the efforts of quite literally, everybody in the legislature, treasurer and on up to the governors office probably for the next couple of decades," Hartwig said.
The $25 billion in unfunded liabilities has been attributed to low performing investments in the current financial climate, relatively low state contributions when compared to national average, and the 10,000 drop in state workers.
Lawmakers are also mulling the idea of changing the current law and unlinking the employer/employee contribution relationship, so the state could potentially pay more towards the pension without affecting the paycheck of state workers.
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