South Carolina's retirement fund billions short

The South Carolina state retirement system is $12 billion to $53 billion short on the money it will need to pay its future obligations to state workers, state officials were told Wednesday, and, unless the system is reformed, trouble could lie ahead for retirees and taxpayers alike.

Gov. Mark Sanford called a summit on the issue, bringing together state lawmakers, experts, retirees, taxpayers and others -- about 200 in all.

Here's the problem: The retirement system covers 232,000 active state and local government employees and another 118,000 retirees in five plans. The largest plan in the retirement system pays out more than $2 billion a year to beneficiaries, who get an average of $19,000 each. Each beneficiary also gets an annual cost-of-living increase

However, since 2004, lawmakers have been told the retirement system cannot continue to absorb those costs.

"We have the 11th worst-funded retirement system in America," said Sanford, who leaves office in January after two terms. "I'm leaving. But it is important to get to a realistic set of numbers [on this]. That's the purpose of this whole summit."

But few things are crystal clear about the S.C. Retirement System.

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