Speaking Plainly from the Ivory Tower
Union pensions for state employees are the single biggest problem, as a 2006 study showed. For decades, policies allowed state union employees to retire on full pensions with cost of living adjustments after 30 years regardless of age, based on a formula from the last three years of work. This system has saddled the state with ever-increasing payments with a shrinking work force paying into the system.
By way of example, a unionized public employee who started working for the state out of college, say age 23, could retire at age 53 on a full pension for life, and could increase the amount of the pension by working overtime in the last three years. Other perks, such as getting retirement “credits” for taking classes, or buying credits, allowed employees to game the system. After “retirement” the state employee could simply get another job while collecting a state pension. It is likely that this person would spend almost as much of his or her life on a state pension as working for the state.
Such a system was great for the individual employee, and made state employment a coveted goal. Handing out state jobs was an important means of political patronage, mostly for the Democrats who control the state legislature. The system, however, was not sustainable. Attempts to change the system were opposed by the unions, which fought tooth-and-nail, with the overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature siding with the unions.
Is it union-bashing to point out that what is good for the unions may be destroying the state? Do the unions even know or care that they have created a house of cards which looks great to their members, but is on the verge of falling down? High taxes are a reflection, in part, of the need to fund these ever-increasing costs. This is an economic death-spiral which is picking up steam as it falls.
Another good one who got away — although I imagine Ithaca could make a man pine even for Rhode Island’s proximity to centrism.
The professor emailed to correct me: He maintains a residence in Rhode Island, so he hasn’t truly gotten away.