Cowell requests $359 million for state pension

RALEIGH She also said it needs to happen in the next two years in order to keep the fund financially sound.

Cowell's request is likely to further the burden on lawmakers who are drafting a state government spending plan for the next two years.

More than 820,000 North Carolinians depend on the pension, and Cowell says employees should worry, but the state need to increase its contributions.

Thursday, she told lawmakers they will need to find $29 million this year. In 2010, that amount will need to increase to $329 million.

"This is not a recommendation," Cowell said. "This is a statuary number in the state law books."

She assured lawmakers the requested amounts aren't unreasonable. State employees will continue to contribute 6 percent of their paychecks to the fund.

The fund was strong enough in recent years to allow the General Assembly to significantly reduce its annual contribution below the normal rate of 6.26 percent of the payroll.

In the 1980s, the state contributed up to 10 percent. In 2002, the state barely contributed anything.

Cowell says the savings gained from the lower contribution rate have allowed the money to be used for other things like education and health care.

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