Legislative Union Leaders “Show [Us] the Money!”

According to a story in Sunday’s ProJo by Katherine Gregg

Out of last year’s political scandals came a law that is shedding new light on the financial ties between some of the state’s part-time, $12,285-a-year lawmakers and major corporate and union players at the State House.

In the first batch of filings made last week, it was reported to the public . . . [s]everal high-ranking Democrats in the House and Senate are not only pro-labor boosters on Smith Hill but also full-time union employees.

Among them were the following:

Senate Whip Dominick J. Ruggerio – $163,717 in salary and benefits as the administrator of one arm of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. (Ruggerio estimated his salary alone was $122,000).

Deputy Senate majority leader John J. Tassoni Jr. of Smithfield – $79,060 in salary alone as business agent of Council 94 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employeesa deputy Senate majority leader.

Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III – $135,177 for various positions. As an elected officer of the Laborers’ union affiliate known as Local 808, Rhode Island Judicial, Professional & Technical Employees, Ciccone made $15,600 as the business manager for the local that represents about 17 bargaining units within state government, including RIPTA, E-911 and court employees, plus a number of Johnston school employees. He is also a field representative for the Rhode Island Laborers’ District Council headed by Ronald Coia. (Ciccone estimated he made ($80, 000 in salary alone).

Deputy House Whip Paul Moura – $91,663 as health and safety field specialist for the New England Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund. (Moura estimated he made $55,000 in salary alone).

According to Gregg:

The three are among the most prolific sponsors of legislation dealing in one way or another with labor issues, employee legal rights and, in Ciccone’s case, a bill to eliminate lifelong tenure for judges.

Further, Gregg’s story details the following illuminating conversation between Moura, Ciccone and Ruggerio:

“This is new. I don’t think they are aware of it,” Ciccone said in a brief exchange with Moura at the State House before the reports were filed.

“But I don’t have a problem telling people what I make,” Ciccone said.

Moura’s reply: “Maybe they should file out of an abundance of caution.”

Ciccone: “No big deal.”

Moura: “That’s fine with me, too. When they see how little I make, they’ll realize its no big deal anyway.”

Added Ruggerio a short time later: “I didn’t think we were obligated to file that, but we’re going to file anyway because obviously we have nothing to hide.”

While it is indeed encouraging to see that Ruggerio feels he has nothing to hide, the degree these gentlemen are insulated from the average taxpayer is evident in Moura’s statement regarding how little he makes. There really is nothing else to say.

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steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve)
steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve)
19 years ago

I never thought I’d find myself defending a RI state legislator, but if Mr. Moura’s salary is really $55K, some new engineering graduates are ahead of him.
Since Mr. Moura has been in the legislature since 1984, he’s 20 years older than 2004 graduates.

Marc Comtois
19 years ago

The pay of the average Rhode Islander is $37,430 and most have nowhere near the benefits package enjoyed by Mr. Moura (source). Additionally, Mr. Moura is clearly in a position by which he can benefit from legislation he proposes. That is a “perk” few others enjoy, wouldn’t you say?

19 years ago

I think what this fellow (Moura) is saying is that this $55,000 is his pay from the Union – not his legislative pay.
Add together his pay/benefits and he’s over $100K- not too shabby for a “public servant”.

steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve)
steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve)
19 years ago

Since this morning, I’ve read the Journal article. I certainly saw a few other organizations mentioned, CVS, GTECH, Blue Cross and Verizon. It made me wonder just how old Marc is and how long he’s lived in RI, since when I lived there in the 1970s, this same article, with different byline, names, and numbers came around in the Journal every so often. It all looked somewhat pointless, since there never seemed to be a push to raise the salaries or change the duties of the legislators, just to point at some of their salaries or who they worked for. No one ever seemed to be able to find a legislator whose non-state income was below the RI average. Surely there’s a quahogger or somebody working in a mill in Pawtucket who’s also in the legislature? When I read the post, seeing “Moura estimated he made $55,000 in salary alone” caught me. I had just received my W2 form at work, and so was very much aware that most of us know the of our salary; the organization we work for may tell us what our overall compensation is worth, but few of us believe it, since there are assumptions on what benefits are worth, etc. Union guys may be a little more gullible that way, but in the article, I found this sentence, “In salary alone, Ruggerio estimated his pay at $122,000; Ciccone, at $80,000; and Moura, at $55,000.” It seems a bit of an extrapolation to get to what’s in the post about Moura. Going back to my previous comment, if you look at the reference for starting salaries, back in June, every one getting a degree from the URI College of Engineering should have been at or above the RI average income. I assume all the engineering… Read more »

Marc Comtois
19 years ago

Steevil, You bring up valid points concerning the CVS, GTECH, etc. ties, but I make mention of the union ties primarily because it is the union contracts that the State and communities have signed that have the most “fluff” in them and need to be scaled back. Like you, I also find it interesting that the union members didn’t know what they made, but I’m not sure what you think I “extrapolated.” All figures are directly from the ProJo piece to which I linked. I understand your point regarding fresh URI engineers and accountants making more than Moura. I am not trying to excoriate anyone for making more money. Rather, I was trying to point out that Moura’s statement on “how little [he] make[s]” showed a degree of naivete regarding what the average Rhode Islander makes. My point is that many would like to make as “little” as he. It was just not a smart thing for him to say when the average Rhode Islander (not the College grad mind you, the average “working man”) makes less than Moura. Finally, you are correct regarding my time “in country” here in Rhode Island. I grew up in Maine, went to a NY City area college and received a degree in engineering. I worked as a union member myself for a period of time, but left when I changed career paths. I took a job with a small engineering firm here in RI and my wife and I moved here in 1995. After having a couple kids, I decided to pursue a History MA at PC. By the way, regarding the employment of those in the legislature. (Some have listed multiple professions at the RI General Assembly web site, that is why there are more than 75 in the House, for example):… Read more »

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