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Rhode Island Tip Sheet: Talking pensions with Speaker Fox

November 3, 2011

STATE OF THE STATE: As a Providence Democrat, House Speaker Gordon Fox is close to former mayor David Cicilline, and Cicilline’s successor, Angel Taveras, used to share a legal office with Fox. Fox nonetheless sounded very skeptical today, during a taping of RIPR’s Political Roundtable, about the approach to locally managed pensions advocated by the likes of Taveras, Allan Fung, and the RI League of Cities and Towns. (Roundtable airs Friday at 5:40 and 7:40 am and online.)

“This is where it gets complicated to do [it] in the short time frame,” Fox said. When it comes to cutting COLAs — a move where the local officials want state help — the speaker says, “I think they need some more steps and that’s why you see what the proposal includes in the [pension] bill is a few more steps to study it. These are ultimately susceptible to court challenge, you have ro presume that they will be challenged in court. We know that the standard is going to be what is reasonable and necessary to meet a legitimate public purpose.” While Fox thinks the state pension/MERS issues are legally defensible, “I’m not convinced we can get there yet with the cities and towns.”

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TIMING: Perhaps because of that aforementioned short timetable, Fox isn’t ruling out doing the pension overhaul in two steps, with the locally managed pensions possibly being taken up in the new session in January.

TURKEY TALK, PART I: Fox and Taveras were slated to meet late today. You can bet the local pension issue will be among the topics.

TURKEY TALK, PART II: Fox says voting on the pension overhaul before Thanksgiving “would be something that I would like to do. I said to some members of the Finance [Committee], ‘I think everyone should eat their turkey in peace.’ And I think we need to wrap this up . . . I think the public deserves our action on this matter, and I think it deserves some swift action on this matter.”

2014: A rare news release from state Senator James Doyle of Pawtucket, rapping a series of problems at Lifespan, won’t douse speculation that he’s planning to join Terry Hassett as a secretary of state candidate.

MEDIA: Ted Nesi reports on how the ProJo’s “payfence” is just an interim step to a more elaborate paywall next year. Meanwhile, ad sales on Fountain Street are off by 11 percent.

NON-PENSION ECONOMIC NEWS: Greek PM George Papandreou called off a referendum on a loan deal for his nation amid rumors that he was about to resign.

TAVERAS ON THE TOWN: The mayor rescinds the owner-occupied homestead exemption for lenders that repossess foreclosed properties.

BLACK MONEY: Flo Jonic reports on the new scam.

LABOR: Unions are holding a statewide tele-town hall at 7 this evening. The audience is said to include 30,000 union members and retirees. Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the national AFL-CIO, is slated to guest. George Nee, Mike Downey, Frank Flynn, Phil Keefe, and Larry Purtill are also due to take part, fielding pension-related questions.

BIRTHDAY: Tony Simon; Teresa Tanzi, Robin Muksian-Schutt.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 3, 2011 10:55 pm

    Ian,

    Merits of the underlying policy notwithstanding, do we know if it’s a slam-dunk in Rhode Island (or Providence) law that a Mayor can change a homestead exemption, which effectively is a change in tax-assessment, through executive order?

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