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MONTPELIER — The first meeting of a task force appointed to find solutions to the state’s multibillion unfunded pension liability will be held at 9 a.m. Friday.

The agenda for the meeting was posted Thursday morning. It will be held in-person in Montpelier at 109 State St., also known as The Pavilion, and can be watched via a link from the committee home page: https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2022/367.

The task force, which includes state Rep. John Gannon, D-Windham 6, and Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, was created by a bill that also reorganized the governance of the commission guiding pension investments for the state.

The pension funds for teachers and state employees have a combined unfunded liability of about $3 billion. When combined with post-employment benefits including health care, that figure swells to about $5.6 billion.

That unfunded liability, along with a surge in the state’s required yearly contribution over the past two years, has raised concerns among lawmakers and the Wall Street bond market that the pension funds could default or become insolvent. There’s also concern that the growing amortization payments — $314 million in Fiscal 2022 — will siphon off General Fund dollars that could otherwise be spent to benefit Vermonters.

The fiscal 2022 budget agreed to by the Legislature and Gov. Phil Scott sets aside $150 million to pay down the unfunded liability once structural changes are made. But calls from the unions, and from Progressives and liberal Democrats, to establish a surcharge on wealthy Vermonters to help pay down the liability were soundly rejected by the House last session.

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A solution proposed by the House Government Operations Committee in February was quickly rejected by unionized workers as a “betrayal” that would have forced them to work longer and contribute more to the system, and capping cost of living allowances to 5 percent for the first $24,000 of benefits.

After days of increasingly vocal protests, Legislative leadership withdrew the proposal and moved ahead with governance reform, while leaving the more difficult questions for a study committee. That same bill, H. 449, was signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott on June 8.

The committee includes Gannon, the vice-chair of the House Government Operations Committee, and White, who chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee, as well as three other lawmakers and representatives from the administration and the affected unions.

The agenda for the first meeting includes a review of the task force’s charge by Jennifer Carbee, deputy chief counsel for the Office of Legislative Counsel; a walk-through of the pension problem with Chris Rupe of the Joint Fiscal Office, and committee planning discussion.

This story has been updated.

Greg Sukiennik covers Vermont government and politics for Vermont News & Media. Reach him at gsukiennik@reformer.com.

Greg Sukiennik has worked at all three Vermont News & Media newspapers and was their managing editor from 2017-19. He previously worked for ESPN.com, for the AP in Boston, and at The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.