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PR senators debate changes to teacher pensions

December 24, 2013

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — In a rare special session, Puerto Rico’s Senate met into the night Monday to debate possible changes to the U.S. island’s underfunded pension system for teachers.

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla has submitted a bill that would increase contributions by individual teachers and change the defined benefit plan to a defined contribution system. He says the current teacher pension system has a $10 billion deficit and will run out of money in seven years unless changes are passed by lawmakers now.

Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives passed the measure Saturday by a 26-20 vote.

The teachers union is fighting the proposal. There were clashes between protesters and police outside the Capitol building when House lawmakers debated the measure. Some 38,000 retired teachers are supported by the pensions.

Under heavy security Monday evening, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Senate and chanted: “You don’t have the votes.”

The Moody’s rating agency recently mentioned the teacher pension system when it put Puerto Rico’s bonds on review for a possible downgrade.

Puerto Rico’s government is struggling with public debt of roughly $70 billion and its general obligation bonds have eroded in value.

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