Ward: “Whether Walsh likes it or not, the party is coming to an end.”

Both Justin and I mentioned NEA President Bob Walsh’s rather intemperate anti-business comments last week:

“We are never going to compete with folks, with employers who are so ridiculous they do not provide retirement security plans for their employees….If they don’t, they are terrible people and they shouldn’t be allowed to exist and that’s always going to be the union position on those issues.” ~ Bob Walsh

Tom Ward, publisher of the Valley Breeze (h/t Dan Yorke), is similarly unimpressed.

If Walsh’s comments are a true reflection of what small business and honest taxpayers are up against, we should all sell our businesses to others and leave. Really. Obviously, Walsh wouldn’t mind if we left – or died. Saturday’s story centered around Rhode Island’s overly generous pension system, showing how our state pays far more to retirees than other New England states. How, for instance, a 55-year-old Rhode Island retiree with 30 years of service, having earned $57,000 per year at retirement, would receive $37,620 per year – with annual raises for life – in his retirement. The same Vermont retiree would receive $24,966. Over the normal lifetime of the two retirees, the Rhode Islander would be paid almost $1 million more than his counterpart in Vermont.
Walsh doesn’t like the reform talk, and seems to harbor some lingering bitterness over the state pension reforms put in place a few years ago that already save taxpayers millions each year….
Let me explain something to you, Mr. Walsh. You only have money for the rich pensions because you and your friends in the General Assembly have been given the power to confiscate our money. You don’t earn anything. You don’t create any wealth. You just take what you need, and when you come up short – like now – you just try to take more. In polite company, it’s called “taxation,” but you and I know it’s just greed.
I and my hard-working employees, on the other hand, have to go out and earn our customers’ money every day. And our customers have to go out and earn their customers money every day. When we fail, we go out of business. No pension. No safety net. We don’t get to confiscate anybody’s money to keep our sorry boat afloat. You can – and do.
All across Rhode Island, business is suffering today. We are the wealth creators, working long hours and risking it all to run a business against all the obstacles you and your friends place in our way. If we eventually succumb to the state’s jack-booted thuggery, we stop filling your wallets. Get it? We don’t succeed with you. We succeed despite you.
And despite having our state leaders picking our pockets with new fees and taxes at every turn, many of us provide the 401 (k) pension plans we can afford for our employees. For that, you call us “terrible people.” What a disgraceful comment, Mr. Walsh.

Ward also gives an example on par with the example I gave regarding former Providence Administrator John Simmons’ pending pension.

A few years ago, Macera was Woonsocket’s assistant superintendent, earning on average $103,000 per year for her final three years of service in that post. Three years ago, she was promoted to superintendent. Upon her promotion, she called for the elimination of the assistant superintendent’s post, asking the School Committee to fold those duties into her own and asking for a much larger compensation. The School Committee agreed, and in the past three years, Macera earned $152,900 in year 1, $162,900 in year 2, and now earns $172,900 this year.
In Rhode Island, a pensioner like Macera, with more than 35 years service, receives 80 percent of their highest three years’ pay.
Union leaders like Walsh keep complaining that we just don’t understand; that pensioners have to pay into the system. In fact, he’s correct and Macera and others pay 9.5 percent of their pay into the pension system.
Was it a good investment for her? You decide.
Had Macera retired as assistant superintendent three years ago with a top three-year average pay of $103,000, she would have a pension of $82,400 per year.
Instead, she took the promotion and worked for a new three-year average wage of about $163,000. Her annual pension now? $130,320. For those of you without a nearby calculator, that’s $2,506 per week. Oh yeah, she gets a 3 percent raise (about $75 per week) every year, too.
If you do the math, you’ll learn that as superintendent Macera paid an extra $17,100 into the state pension system in her final three years. Her return? An extra $48,000 per year in her pension. She’ll have all her money back in four months. Should she live 20 years she’ll take away more than one million extra dollars for her $17,000 investment.

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Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
16 years ago

People like Bob Walsh are nothing but a bunch of absolute PIGS. They don’t give a crap about us, why should we give a crap about them?
I think it is high time to take a new tack in eliminating these unions from our lives. Can someone explain to me just where the notion comes from that says the state or any municipality has more of an obligation to those that work for the taxpayers, than the taxpayers themselves.
Or, look at it another way. If I hire you as my lawyer, and we need to hire someone to investigate a particular aspect of the case, is it OK for you to hire a friend who will do the job for twice the going rate? Of course not. You have breached your fiduciary responsibility to me. That is exactly what we have by allowing unions to exist. They serve no function to the taxpayers, other than to drive up the costs for services, and drive down the performance levels. I say we have a case that can show public employee unions are illegal. They are nothing but a bunch of liars and thieves.
Just why do we need public employee unions?? What are people like Bob Walsh afraid of – those mean, nasty taxpayers?

16 years ago

It looks like the City of Woonsocket and school department made out like bandits and saved money!
City of Woonsocket got a School Superintendent and an Assistant Superintendent for about half price in salary and benefits.
Macera had to do double the work for about ½ more pay and same benefits.
Year 1 salary $152,900 minus $14,525.50 to retirement (9.5%) = $138, 374.50 salary before additional standard deductions.
Year 2 salary $162,900 minus $15,475.50 to retirement (9.5%) = $147,424.50 salary before additional standard deductions.
Year 3 salary $172,900 minus $16,425.50 to retirement (9.5%) = $156,474.50 salary before additional standard deductions.
If she stayed at Assistant Superintendent position salary $103,000 minus $9,785.00 to retirement (9.5%) = $93,215.00 salary before additional standard deductions.
Plus the City of Woonsocket would have had to hire an additional School Superintendent at salary plus benefits, plus additional office space, support, insurance, electric, heat etc.
The city of Woonsocket had to contribute into the retirement fund its share for 1 salary and benefits instead of 2 salaries and benefits.
Actually Macera was loosing money because under the old retirement system a person is capped at 80% at 30 years service. Working past 30 years (in Macera’s case reported 35 years) people loose money due to taxes and additional payments into the retirement system because of the cap.
Under the new retirement system, the cap is set at 75% of last 3 years averaged salary at 30 years service.

16 years ago

If you want a Woonsocket sweetheart pension deal, just like the one Mayor Menard’s thug boy John Dionne got. Can’t blame the unions for that one.

16 years ago

Doesn’t the fact that it was so easy to combine the two positions — with no apparent negative consequences for the outputs and outcomes they are expected to produce — tell you something about the original content of the two positions?
Everyone reading this story who works in the private sector knows what was going on. Yet everybody who works or worked in the public sector has an entirely different view.
Kind of makes you think of the old phrase: two nations, separate and unequal. Or perhaps Animal Farm. You make the call.

16 years ago

“If you want a Woonsocket sweetheart pension deal, just like the one Mayor Menard’s thug boy John Dionne got.”
Yeah, I heard about that, Rhody. We all need to line up outside the Woonsocket Personnel Board’s office and demand the same deal. After all, we have the same right to it as Dionne does – which is to say, exactly none.
At least the city is going to appeal the decision to Superior Court.
As to Ward’s excellent example, unlike most other cities and towns in RI, 83% of Woonsocket’s school budget – presumably including Macera’s goodies – is picked up by state and federal taxpayers. So people we have no say in electing or appointing are generously handing out our tax dollars. (The same idea in reverse is why we cannot have a state-wide teacher contract.)

16 years ago

I paid over $2,400 a year in property taxes to the City of Woonsocket in support of the city and school department. I like it when the city saves my tax dollar.
Combining two top school department positions into one for a savings of over 50% (including additional support and resources) without degradation of services and performance is indicative that one position might not have been required to start with.
If Woonsocket can do it maybe it can be expand out to all other state of RI positions, Cities and Towns and also include private business too (Governor and LT Governor; Director and Executive Director, Manager and Assistant Manager, Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor etc.) State of RI has blossomed with $100,000 plus Director and Executive Director positions these last five years. With the budget crises just maybe people should be looking there.
Plus by eliminating one or more top heavy positions the requirement to provide matching fund to the retirement fund be it public service or private business 401K save the state, city and town or business extra funds.
I don’t begrudge the young lady and her retirement. The school department and city approved it and she worked hard and put in more than her required time doing both jobs working for the betterment of the education afforded to the children of Woonsocket.

16 years ago

Marc Comtois,
“Oh yeah, she gets a 3 percent raise (about $75 per week) every year, too.”
It is my understanding the current retirement system has a cost of living adjustment (COLA) every three years (a person must be retired and in the system three years as of January).
Your above statement is interesting.
Could you please direct me to the legal resources and verse that provide Ms. Macera that benefit?

16 years ago

Ken, FYI, it was Tom Ward who said that, not Marc.
Below is from a ProJo article. As Ms. Macera was employed for longer than ten years, her pension is grandfathered in for the 3% COLA.
“In the 2004 reform, the Cost of Living Allowances (COLA) were changed from a fixed 3 percent to link to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Some states were already on a CPI annual increase and others provide no annual increase without specific action taken by their legislatures. Even so, the 2004 reforms applied only to new employees and those with less than 10 years in the system.”

16 years ago

Monique, thanks for clarifying that for Ken.
Ken, I find it interesting that we can play class warfare with people who make over $100k in the private sector, but not when it comes to those in the public sector. Especially when the fact is that their RETIREMENT pay puts them in the top 10% of wage earners in the nation. The free-marketer in me says well, I suppose she earned it. But the taxpayer can’t help but think this sort of largesse with the public’s money is simply too much.
Anyway, your point about how the down-sizing saved money is correct. But as some alluded to, the problem the public has is that it never should have gotten bloated in first place.

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