The Biggest Faction in the General Assembly
In today’s ProJo story about the General Assembly and pension reform, one sentence jumps out and explains the root problem at the heart of trying to change things here in Rhode Island:
At least half, 55 of the 113 lawmakers, have a publicly-financed pension, or between 1 and 33 years of credit toward a possible pension from a city-, town- or state-financed pension fund in Rhode Island.
At least half of the members of the GA have pulled a pay-check from taxpayer dollars and still have friends or relatives doing the same. They’re naturally going to be reluctant to take “bread from the mouths” of themselves or their own. Perhaps this is a fair illustration of their general attitude:
Rep. Mary Duffy Messier of Pawtucket, a recently retired fifth-grade teacher, was also on the losing side of the 42-to-29 House vote to limit the COLAs paid future retirees to the first $35,000 in retirement pay.
“It is not a lot of money, not compared to the governor’s pension, let’s say, from Cookson America,” said Messier of her own $4,542 a month pension after 35 years in the classroom.
While acknowledging “the pension system is in a bad way,” she said she still could not vote to cut the benefits of future retirees because “I know the hard work that teachers put in, and I know all the aggravation they go through with parents and administrators, and now their jobs are going to be on the line if their test scores don’t come through…I think it’s kind of unfair to them.”
But, apparently, it’s not unfair to take money from taxpayers–who live with 401(k)s and co-share/pay health plans–to prop up more-than-generous benefit packages for public employees who, on average, already make more than the average Joe. It’s reverse Robin Hood.