Fox backs tackling municipal pension overhaul in 2012
In a sign that 2012 could be the year for overhauling Rhode Island’s severely underfunded locally managed pensions, House Speaker Gordon Fox is throwing his support behind the concept.
“He certainly wants to tackle that issue,” by working with state Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Governor Lincoln Chafee, says Fox spokesman Larry Berman. “He’s committed to working on the issue of the municipal pensions in the new session.”
Some observers thought the General Assembly would be unlikely to incur the wrath of municipal public-safety unions by overhauling the locally managed pensions during an election year.
Chafee responded to the exclusion of locally managed pensions in the state’s new pension law by saying he would make the municipal pensions a priority in January.
The troubled state of Central Falls was a big factor in building support for the statewide pension reform. Now, continued bad news about other municipalities — highlighted in a recent report by Moody’s — underscores the need for overhauling the locally managed pensions.
For her part, Raimondo used an op-ed in today’s ProJo (thanks to Cranston Patch for an easy-to-find link to the same essay) to frame the locally managed pensions as the logical next step for 2012. Her op-ed included some fresh details about how she might help cities and towns:
In the coming weeks, Treasury will launch an online toolkit, based on the RIRSA [RI Retirement Security Act] process, which municipalities can utilize in assessing their situation, and crafting their solutions. We will also host working sessions throughout the upcoming year for local leaders to help guide each stage of their work.
In pushing forward the new pension law, Raimondo said excluding the locally managed pensions made sense, in part, because they required further analysis. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed favored excluding the locals for similar reasons, says spokesman Greg Pare.
For now, Pare pointed to mechanisms in the new pension law as a way of addressing the locally managed pensions. For municipal leaders like Angel Taveras and Allan Fung, those provisions are not close to sufficient.
So whether Paiva Weed will lend her support to overhauling the locally managed pensions is something to watch going forward.