For years, administrators of the five programs that provide retirement benefits for public employees in Ohio have been begging state legislators to do something about unfunded liabilities. Meanwhile, the debt continues to grow.
At last count, the five pension systems had a combined unfunded liability of about $66 billion. Only about two-thirds of the benefits they were pledged to provide were covered financially. Paying off the liabilities would cost every man, woman and child in Ohio more than $5,700 each.
Some progress has been achieved in dealing with the liabilities. But legislators need to give the five retirement boards more flexibility to keep the programs solvent.
That may mean requiring public employees to pay more of the cost of funding pensions and covering retirees' health care costs. It also may require new limits on benefits such as health insurance.
Even if such changes are phased in to spare those already retired the burden of higher costs for health care, they will be very unpopular. And, as the referendum on the now-defunct Senate Bill 5 law demonstrated, government worker unions wield enormous political clout.
But changes have to be made, or the programs at some point will be insolvent - or will have to turn to Buckeye State taxpayers for massive bailouts.
Some legislators have expressed reluctance to tackle the issue this summer. That is because many of them, like State Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren, are up for re-election this fall, of course.
But the groundwork for action needs to be laid now - and steps to clear up the mess should begin no later than November. At the very least, Letson and his challenger, Republican Randy Law, should make their positions known sooner rather than later.