Rhode Island Retirement Security Act of 2011

2012 National Leadership Conference

Fiscal Chairs Forum:
State Efforts to Stabilize Public Pension Plans
May 17, 2012

The Fiscals Chairs forum featured an in-depth discussion of, and policy options to, one of the thorniest problems confronting state policymakers: public pensions.  As states cautiously recover from the Great Recession, one of the significant fiscal challenges they confront involves devising solutions to boost underfunded and unfunded public pension plans.  During the forum, the fiscal chairs heard from fellow state officials representing three states (Oregon, Rhode Island and California), each tackling unique public pension challenges in innovative ways.

Presentation by Richard Licht,
Director, Department Of Administration, Rhode Island

Rhode Island Retirement Security Act of 2011

Director Licht began his remarks by stating that, in fall 2011, Rhode Island policymakers faced a critical choice: they could maintain the state’s pension system as it currently stood, eventually triggering significant tax increases and/or service cuts, or enact reforms to enhance solvency and control the growth of future obligations.  Thankfully, he noted, the state’s policymakers, acting in a bipartisan fashion, overwhelmingly decided on the latter option and approved major reforms, spearheaded by Governor Lincoln Chafee, House Speaker Gordon Fox, Senate President Theresa Paiva and State Treasurer Gina Raimondo.  Among the monumental reforms enacted were requiring certain state workers and school teachers to move some of their retirement funds into a 401(k)-style account,  suspending annual cost-of-living raises until pension funding levels reach 80 percent, raising age requirements, increasing employee contributions and re-amortizing pension system debt to lower and smooth future payments.

Richard Licht

Richard Licht serves as the Director of Rhode Island's Department of Administration. The department's responsibilities include the development and administration of the $7.5 billion state budget; determining and maintaining standard specifications for purchases, contracts, bids and awards for state purchases; maintenance and upkeep and procurement of state facilities; administration of the statewide planning program and overall personnel administration and management of state departments and agencies and the negotiation of state employee union contracts.

Licht, a Providence native, is a graduate of the Moses Brown School, and earned an A.B. in economics from Harvard College, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and an LL.M. in taxation from the Boston University School of Law. He clerked for Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Roberts before serving as State Senator from 1975-1984. From 1985-1989, Licht was the state’s first full-time Lieutenant Governor, and he served on the Board of Governors for Higher Education from 1991-1997, including three years as Chairman. He previously served as a Partner with Adler, Pollock & Sheehan, and has served on numerous charitable and civic boards and commissions.