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Rhode Island Tip Sheet: The year the rules changed?

November 9, 2011

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. 

YEAH, BUT: Labor claims a victory in Ohio . . . . And Ted Nesi finds a second error in pension testimony from the treasurer’s office.

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.

GREAT NORTH: Brown grad Alex Morse, described as a mentee of US Representative David Cicilline, wins the mayor’s office in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

BIRTHDAY: Rob Horowitz, Rick Roth.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mister Guy permalink
    November 9, 2011 8:59 pm

    “and there, in a nutshell, is why conservatives find fault with the premise of public-employee unions”

    Hmmmmm, did “public-employee unions” cause the state & RI localities to not make their required payments into the pension system in the past, cause the state to rob the pension fund to payoff a state bank insurance scheme that went belly up & then not pay the pension fund back with interest, or cause the worst U.S. economic downturn since the Great Depression?? Nope.

    “1) Taxpayers would be on the hook next July for a rough doubling of pension costs”

    …which will go down over the next decade as a percentage of the RI state budget.

    “2) Central Falls has become a nationally publicized poster child for what happens when a community has unsustainable public costs”

    …which has absolutely nothing to do with the current issues in the RI pension system. Central Falls is simply too small & poor a community to be on its own.

    “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”

    …filled by her “Engage RI” big business buddies, which are out-numbered in terms of votes by the public at large.

    “4; and publicity about some pension benefits doesn’t resonate well in the current economic climate.”

    In other words, “someone else is getting something that they earned but that I also don’t get myself (because I’m not them), so let’s screw them over”…nice…and the rich just laugh on the sidelines as the middle class cuts its self to pieces. Some people are too stupid for their own good…ugh…

    “It’s striking that the pension amendments set to be rolled out around 3 this afternoon remained in flux through the morning.”

    Come on now…the powers that be in the RI Legislative & Executive Branches of govt. want to keep those changes under wraps for as long as possible. Word has it that a bunch of those changes are merely to “sweet the pot” for police & firemen. So much for the lack of any leverage of the unions in RI, eh?

    “the RI GOP cites ‘an almost perfect night’ in local elections.”

    What the heck does that even mean?

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