The promises that Rhode Island and its cities and towns have made to their current and future retirees without putting money aside carry a dollar figure that is big enough to buy 345,588 Ford Mustang GTs, 47,000 houses priced at the state median or several hundred of the finest mansions along the state’s coast.
Put another way, the state’s unfunded retirement obligations add up to about $9,400 per Rhode Island resident.
All told, those promises come with a price tag of $9.4 billion — a number revealed for the first time in a report to be released Wednesday by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council.
That bit of news dovetails perfectly with a recent op-ed that I’d intended to mention, today, by RI Senate candidate for district 35, Dawson Hodgson:
Hard-working and dedicated government employees deserve a compensation and retirement structure comparable to that of their fellow citizens. In some cases, such as police and firefighters who risk their safety to protect ours, they even deserve a little bit more. All they have now, however, is an illusion that has been sold to them by irresponsible politicians. A deal that can’t be kept is no deal at all. We owe these employees and our taxpayers a contemporary and competitive benefit structure within the confines of what we can afford.
Among the problems that government faces is that, when it tries to commit future generations to make specific (and imbalanced) payments, those generations don’t have much reason to feel as if they have ownership of the promises made. Another problem that Rhode Island has, especially, is that those younger folks can just leave, making the promises even harder to keep.