Paiva Weed won’t support “quick fix” on local pensions
State Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed says mayors wrestling with severely underfunded local pensions — like those in Providence and Cranston — still have a lot of work to do before they can expect significant help from her chamber.
“What I will not support, speaking for myself personally, is a quick fix to local mayors’ budget problems that is not in fact real structural reform to their pensions,” Paiva Weed said during an interview earlier this week.
She continued, referring to municipal leaders:
If they simply want to, quite frankly, engage in minimalistic reforms which mimic in some way the steps that we took prior to this year as simply a way to solve their budget problems and not ensure the financial stability in the long-term of their pension systems, then I cannot support those steps.
Paiva Weed was a leading legislative opponent last year to including locally manged pensions in the pension overhaul bill that became law.
Like state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Paiva Weed argued that actuarial and experience studies need to be conducted on the local pensions before other steps are considered. This week, the Senate president maintained that point in outlining the conditions under which she’d be more receptive to municipal officials with troubled local pensions:
[I]f they have their actuarial studies done and their experience studies, and they negotiate with their local unions and come up with a comprehensive plan, as we have set forth in the legislation, they will certainly have our support.
Paiva Weed says a 1991 consent decree poses a particular obstacle in Providence. The consent decree effectively short-circuited the city’s legal challenge to a big increase in compounded cost of living adjustements for public-safety employees.
“They may need to go to court directly and address that consent judgment,” Paiva Weed said. “[It] appears to be the greatest challenge that the mayor currently faces and I honestly think he and his legal team may need to return to court to undo that or address it, or modify it.”
On Thursday, during a news conference following Governor Chafee’s municipal finance strategy session, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras once again spoke about the unsustaintable nature of 5 percent and 6 percent compound COLAs for public-safety retirees. He again called for the General Assembly to pass enabling legislation allowing Providence to suspend those cost of living adjustments.
When I asked about the consent decree, Taveras said, “From a legal perspective there are different things that perhaps we can do . . . . We have some hail Marys if we need to in respect to that.”