Rhode Island Tip Sheet: The year the rules changed?
STATE OF THE STATE: As part of its voluminous coverage of the pension issue, the ProJo recounted earlier this year how the Williamson commission’s recommendations mostly faded into oblivion a few years back. The explanation was that lawmakers didn’t want to incur the wrath of labor (and there, in a nutshell, is why conservatives find fault with the premise of public-employee unions). So why is the General Assembly poised to pass next week what Speaker Gordon Fox refers to as a “comprehensive” pension overhaul. Quite simply, the landscape is different.
Yes, labor staged a Statehouse rally yesterday that was impressive for its size. Thousands of union members railed against “broken promises,” scorned state Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Governor Lincoln Chafee, and vowed to deliver payback at the ballot box. But things appear different now for a few reasons, including: 1) Taxpayers would be on the hook next July for a rough doubling of pension costs; 2) Central Falls has become a nationally publicized poster child for what happens when a community has unsustainable public costs; 3) Raimondo might be a villain for the unions, but she enjoys the trust and confidence of a large swath of voting Rhode Islanders (and she knows how political power flows, in considerable part, from a flush campaign account); 4; and publicity about some pension benefits doesn’t resonate well in the current economic climate.
It’s striking that the pension amendments set to be rolled out around 3 this afternoon remained in flux through the morning. For now, the possibility of changes in COLAs, retirement age, and other labor bugaboos can’t be ruled out. The ultimate shape of the overhaul will be proof positive whether this was the year when the rules changed.
STATE HOUSE: Representative John McCauley is the latest state rep to find his way into the news for events outside of Smith Hill.
ELECTION DAY: TPM points to a repudiation of GOP ideas. Closer to home, the RI GOP cites “an almost perfect night” in local elections.
BIRTHDAY: Rob Horowitz, Rick Roth.