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Rhode Island Tip Sheet: All things Raimondo

February 17, 2011

STATE OF THE STATE: State Treasurer Gina Raimondo says she doesn’t believe current pension recipients are legally shielded from possible cuts to their pensions. She outlined her view during a taping today of WRNI’s Political Roundtable, which airs tomorrow at 5:40/7:40 am. Scott MacKay asked Raimondo, as a lawyer and financial expert, whether pensioners currently receiving an annual pension of $80,000 or $90,000 have a property right to their pensions. “If push comes to shove, what happens?” MacKay continued. “Do we go the United Airlines situation, where they take a haircut?” Here’s how Raimondo responded to the question of whether pension recipients have a property right: “I don’t believe so. That hasn’t been established in law, and I don’t believe they do.”

LOOKING AHEAD ON PENSIONS: Raimondo blames a piecemeal approach. “The reason we’re in this mess” she says, “is because every year we chink away at the problem — let’s tweak the COLA a little bit, let’s tweak this, let’s tweak that. We got to do the whole system. This is not about taking benefits away. This is about securing retirement security for everyone . . . . It is a fallacy to think that those benefits will be there if we don’t fix this system. And the system that we have today calls for a billion dollars to come out of the budget in about 10 years to pay these benefits. I cannot look in the eye of a state worker and promise that that will be there.”

REGIME CHANGE: Raimondo says her last conversation with her predecessor, Frank Caprio, was when he called her to offer his congratulations and well wishes on Inauguration Day.

LOCALLY ADMINISTERED PENSIONS: Raimondo on whether this week’s recommendations by the Senate Municipal Pensions Study Commission go far enough: “I applaud the Senate for taking a hard look at what is a humongous problem . . . . I think their recommendations are a good beginning . . . Even in the report they recognize that [the recommendations] are just a beginning. Much of what they talk about is impacting the system on a go-forward basis, which is, of course, necessary. But what we’re paying for now is the unfunded liability, and that won’t be touched at all by impacting the system on just a go-foward basis.”

THE WELL IS DRY: Raimondo notes that the state-administered pension program for cities and towns (MERS) is in better shape since state aid is conditioned on communities making their MERS contributions. “It’s very important that we step back for a minute and realize we can’t blame the cities and towns,” she says. “The fastest-growing line item in the state budget and every city’s budget is the pension obligation. So these cities and towns aren’t going to have the money. It’s not that they don’t want to pay it in, but they simply don’t have the capital. We have to reform the system from the bottom up.”

SEC PROBE: The US Securities and Exchange Commission hasn’t contacted Raimondo’s office since word broke of the SEC’s probe of RI bond offerings.

SCOTT BROWN: The Fix says the Massachusetts Republican is looking like a favorite for 2012 . . . . Former ProJo scribes Chris Rowland and Mark Arsenault recount Brown’s revelations of suffering beatings and sexual abuse as a boy.

TWEET ALL ABOUT IT: Roger Ebert gets notice for generating a revenue stream via Twitter . . . . Twitter turns five next month; co-founder Biz Stone says it’s not for sale.

FEINGOLD’S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG: Russell Feingold has launched a progressive PAC.

DEFICIT REDUCTION: Fall River’s own E.J. Dionne says he’s happy to not see President Obama getting played by Congressional conservatives on the budget: “It’s a game for chumps. The conservatives play it brilliantly. By winning their tax cuts and slashing government revenue, they constrain what liberals can do whenever they get back into power. How do we know our difficulties stem primarily from a shortage of revenue? Consider what would happen if we allowed all the tax cuts scheduled to expire in 2012, including the ones enacted under Bush, to go away. That would produce nearly as much deficit reduction over the next decade – roughly $4 trillion – as all the maneuvers of the Bowles-Simpson commission put together. If you want to be serious about closing the deficit, ending the Bush tax cuts is a good place to start.”

ALTERED STATES: Wisconsin Democrats fled the State House today to avoid passing Republican Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to weaken public-employee unions . . . .  Connecticut’s Dannel Malloy and New Jersey’s Chris Christie offer a study in contrasts on dealing with unions.

GREAT NORTH: Curbing so-called “hack holidays” in Massachusetts will cost north of $1 million.

BIRTHDAY: Cara Camacho.

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