Monday, September 29, 2008

Number of Rhode Island state workers opting for retirement soars

As the state closes in on tomorrow’s deadline after which new retirees will have to pay more, in some cases double for their health insurance, hundreds of employees across state government have retired.

Thus far in 2008, 1,259 of the state’s roughly 14,000 employees have announced their departures, close to four times the number that did so between January and September of last year, according to the state treasurer’s office, which oversees the retirement board.

In a last-minute attempt to block the governor from imposing benefit changes, the state’s largest public employees union, Council 94, has taken the administration to court, saying it tried to “force” long-term employees to leave. But with both sides claiming victory after a hearing Friday, the outcome remains unclear and the parties are due back in Providence Superior Court this morning.

Until recently, Rhode Island was one of 11 states that paid 100 percent of medical benefits for most employees who retire with the required years of service before age 65, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But this spring, the Rhode Island legislature voted to scale back retiree benefits to try and staunch a growing budget deficit and bring the plans more in line with private industry.

No comments: