Left Holding the Bag

The ProJo headlines the $9.4 billion pension liability, but also mentions the $2.4 billion health care liability. That’s $11.8 billion in money owed to state and municipal retirees (some of which is funded). They try to soften the blow explaining that an 80% funding level “is considered healthy” for pensions. So that makes it about a $7.5 billion pension obligation (if we include health care–assuming the 80% “rule” applies–the overall would be $9.4 billion). Yes, some pensions are partially funded, but it’s still not good.

Most of Rhode Island’s pension plans fall short of the 80-percent funding level, a gap of more than $5.7 billion. Of the 155 plans, more than 100 are less than 80-percent funded.
The 37 plans run by municipalities are in the worst financial shape, with 32 of them not reaching the 80-percent level.
Historically, pension contributions to the locally run plans have often been shortchanged in favor of other municipal services –– such as education, public works and public safety –– when money is tight.

The only solution is massive reform to current pension plans. Some fundamentals seem like no-brainers: move up the retirement age; no more double-dipping; no more buying “good” years. Some will be tougher, like trying to move to a 401K system with current employees (the Laffey idea of cutting them a check and telling them to invest wisely!). This isn’t about sticking it to government employees. You were made promises. They have been broken. Let’s not forget who did this.
For all of these broken promises were made by politicians who continued and continue to be re-elected. 70 years of Democrats have done this to you, Rhode Island. That’s the truth. Don’t blame the odd Republican Governor or occasional Republican Mayor for this. It was the Democrats in the General Assembly, on the Town and City Councils, on the “non-partisan” school committees who made these broken promises. This is what letting yourself become beholden and brainwashed into thinking that one party–the party of the “little guy”–would look out for you.
You elected them because they promised you a “good deal”. Now you and your kids and grand kids and Rhode Island taxpayers and their kids and grand kids are all left holding an empty bag full of broken promises. All because elected officials, almost all of them Democrats, told you what you wanted to hear and you believed them. It’s worked out for them. How’s it working out for you?

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Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Preaching to the choir, my brother.
Amen.

michael
michael
10 years ago

Believe it or not there are a lot more issues I consider than my pension when I vote. It is insulting to continually be accused of voting for the sole reason of personal enrichment. The perception that unions vote as a block for the candidate that will fill their pockets is completely wrong, and those of you who do not belong to a union can pontificate and call me a liar all day long, but you do not have the experience that somebody who actually is a union member has.
Unions do not elect government officials. Empathy and lack of participation from the majority of citizens does.

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
10 years ago

Great points Marc! You voted for the liars – you suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, we live in the perverted liberal state of RI where everyone has rights and nobody has responsibilities. This will end very badly. The liars continue to run the show. Take a look at this charade the liars are perpetrating as we speak:
newsblog.projo.com/2011/05/senate-committee-signals-possi.html
There exists NO political will to do what everyone knows has to be done, as you pointed out. There is NO fixing this problem. Everyone needs to prepare for the worst.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

“The perception that unions vote as a block for the candidate that will fill their pockets is completely wrong”
Hmm, someone should tell Doug Gablinske that. Especially since the folks over at RIF were crowing about how they and the unions got out the vote to defeat him and others. Are they liars, michael? I’m not saying you are, you are an n of 1. Of course there are lots of individual examples that can be used, but if endorsements and recommendations didn’t mean anything, then people wouldn’t do them.

michael
michael
10 years ago

Patrick, we (people we read and contribute to blogs)are the vast minority. Maybe the union get out the vote thing was enough to beat Gablinski, but it would never have been enough if more people got involved and voted!
Maybe he still would have lost, I don’t know, I don’t follow politics that closely.

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
10 years ago

michael,
Face facts – you have been lied to! By your union leaders and by the politicians they worked so hard to elect – with your union dues. Just look at the charade I pointed to above, going on RIGHT NOW!!! in the Senate. What could that possibly be about?? – it is the same old crap that got us here.
Did you ask anybody to vote against that bill yet?
Quit crying. You are an enabler so quit playing the victim card.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

“it would never have been enough if more people got involved and voted!”
And therein lies another frustration with the Republican party, starting at the national level. I’ve said a few times before, it would be relatively dirt cheap for the GOP to come into RI and dump a bunch of money with the goal to be electing Republicans to office. Starting with Congressional seats and then go after the Assembly and Gov’s office. Get a veto-proof Assembly and get a Republican back into the Gov’s seat. Maybe it would take too long to turn Rhode Island red, but maybe we can make it a blue-ish purple.
Ironic how that’s the same color as a bruise.

michael
michael
10 years ago

Nobody lied to me. My union contributes to candidates that will support legislation that benefits the members, and I support that effort, doesn’t mean I vote for whoever they tell me too. Sometimes the best candidate for the union is not necessarily the best candidate for me.
Having a well funded lobby puts union members in the game, and that game is a despicable part of life in American politics, ugly, corrupt and something I wish didn’t exist. But it does.

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
10 years ago

“My union contributes to candidates that will support legislation that benefits the members, and I support that effort…”
Then, my dear michael, you deserve to suffer the consequences of your actions.
Now please stop your whining, be a big boy, and accept responsibility for your actions.

michael
michael
10 years ago

Honestly, Mike, where do you hear the whining? A recurrent theme here is listing imaginary statements and whining and attributing them to me.

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

michael,
As the first comment stated… “Preaching to the choir, my brother.”
Apparently people like Mike Cappelli prefer it that way and just don’t want to hear anything (or from anyone) who might offer a different prospective.

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
10 years ago

It’s “perspective” Tom. And, I’m open to hearing any that are different of substance and value. But I have no patience for the same old tired crap that you and your union leaches continually serve up.
We are BROKE!!

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

The politicians say, “Hey, don’t blame us. We’re just representing those who elected us.”
The union leaders say, “Hey, don’t blame us. We’re just doing our job representing the workers.”
The union members say, “Hey, don’t blame us. We just pay our union dues. We don’t control what union leadership does.”
Is everyone starting to see where there might be a problem in this scenario?
It all comes back to my earlier point: unless everyone in an organization is held responsible for the organization, then nobody is.

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

In Providence, if the politicians had made the necessary payments into the system (and didn’t raid it as their personal line of credit) the pension system wouldn’t be underfunded.
Now, this may have highlighted the actual cost of the plan as problematic earlier but we could have taken small steps to correct these possible problems earlier – and at a much smaller cost to both taxpayers and pension participants.
The problem with the so-called abuse of the disability pensions could have been put under much higher scrutiny – as it is currently.
In our system it must be noted that any pensioner who has retired under the disability provisions in our contract, and has served for 28 years, does not take a single penny extra out of the system because of the disability!
Also, though the unfunded pension liability is an enormous problem, the current state of financial crisis in most municipalities in this country is directly ue to the trickle down effect of the Bush tax credits to the top 1% of US earners. Federal income – down. Federal dollars to states – down. State dollars to municipalities – down. Municipalities have no one lower on the food chain to pass the buck. Municipalities suffer.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

As usual, Tom accepts no responsibility for his department, the activities of his public union, or the politicians his public union helped install in the General Assembly (and Tom voted for, I’m guessing). The union leaders accept no responsibility. The politicians accept no responsibility…
Nobody accepts any responsibility and Rhode Island keeps sinking into the abyss. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.
Keep repeating the RI mantra, all together now, “This is everybody’s fault but mine. Now where’s my handout?”

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

All we will see is cosmetic pension changes. Sales and income taxes will be 10% by 2015 to fund the Government Worker Elites.
Go south, go west or go north but get OUT of this state while your house is still worth more than Deeeetroit’s $60000 median price.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

Of course I mis typed-the median house in Deeeetroit is $6000-Six Thousand Dollars:
Median U.S. House Prices Crash To $6,000 in Detroit
Housing-Market / US Housing Jun 13, 2009 – 06:03 AM
By: Mike_Shedlock
Housing-Market
Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleA few years ago, after my dad passed away, we sold his Danville, Illinois house for the grand total of $14,000 which was then split among 4 siblings. Friends where I live now cannot ,fathom a house selling for $14,000.
Moreover, it was a livable house. When I grew up I never thought much about it. In fact, I thought we were solidly middle class. The house had 3 bedrooms and one very tiny bathroom. I have 2 sisters and one brother. We must have learned to share because I recall no significant fights over the bathroom or for that matter anything else.
However, Danville (then a city of 44,000 now 32,000) is one thing, and Detroit is another.
In 2008 Detroit ranked as the United States’s eleventh most populous city, with 916,952 residents. At its peak in 1950 the city was the fourth largest in America. The name Detroit sometimes refers to the Metro Detroit area, a sprawling region with a population of 4,425,110
Although I am a deflationist, I must admit surprise that the median home price in Detroit has fallen to a stunningly low $6,000.

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

“Keep repeating the RI mantra, all together now, “This is everybody’s fault but mine. Now where’s my handout?”
Assuming I get to collect my full pension when I retire………
What handout??

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Don’t worry, Tom. The legalized mafia that your union has worked tirelessly to install in state government over the past three decades will make sure that you get your gold-plated pension. The taxpayers can pick up any slack:
RI Retirement Board OKs higher taxpayer contributions:
newsblog.projo.com/2011/05/state-retirement-board-approve.html
This is everybody’s fault but yours, after all. How could you possibly have known that the Democratic politicians and union leaders you give money to and support year after year would behave so irresponsibly on your behalf?

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

lol
You’re a real piece of work, Dan…..

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
10 years ago

These union stooges make me laugh. Tom Kenney regurgitates the garbage talking points his union spoon feeds him and thinks we can’t tell where he is coming from.
Tom, you are exactly the kind of little pawn the union needs. You can’t think for yourself, hence, you make the perfect useful idiot for your leaders to help spread their lies.
I know you hate me Tom, but I am telling you the truth. Your “friends” are lying to you!
Wake up! There is no more money!

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

Mike,
No one spoon feeds me anyhting.
You, on the other hand, speak the dribble of the right whether or not you know anything about the specific subjects on the table. God knows you know little or nothing about this subject other than what you’ve been told.
If you notice…I only post on things I do know about.
I can’t help it if what I say is a contradiction to what you’ve been told.

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

Let me ask you all a single question.
Is there any such thing as a binding contract anymore?

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
10 years ago

Tom, it’s “drivel”, not dribble. This isn’t basketball.
See what happens when you stray from the party line.
They are lying to you. There is no more money.
There is no such thing as a binding contract in bankruptcy. Bet they didn’t tell you that.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

There are a number of circumstances in which contracts become voidable, Tom. Many of which are directly applicable in the current Providence financial meltdown.
I do have to slightly disagree with Mike Cappelli’s assessment in this thread. While he is correct that you have been repeatedly used and lied to by those you enable year after year and that there is no money left with which to pay your gold-plated pension, RI’s corrupt, unaccountable government will once again close its widening budget deficit on the backs of the taxpayers. I advise everyone who isn’t receiving said benefits to leave the state immediately before the hosing really begins, unless you want to serve as a guinea pig for the GA to test how high taxes can be raised in a state before society collapses.

Ken
Ken
10 years ago

Hate to mention this to everyone but the majority of the various 50 state’s pension funds are now producing double digit investment returns.

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

“…with which to pay your gold-plated pension,…”
lol – gold plated? This just proves my point about people not knowing the facts but just listening to the people that “supposedly” know the facts! The lawyer guy from another state!
I’m still waiting for an answer as to what my handout is? and to my question regarding binding contracts…I’m looking to break my contract with my mortgage company and my car loan!
and BTW – how wonderful it is to know that when I’m having an off day there’s always someone like Mike Cappelli that has my back…thank’s for the spelling/grammar saves, Mike!!

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

“I’m looking to break my contract with my mortgage company and my car loan!”
Then do it. No one’s stopping you. Millions of people have been doing that in the last few years. Just like Dan wrote, under certain circumstances, you can break contracts. If you want to break yours, just file for bankruptcy and you’re clear. Just wait until the sheriff forces you out of your house and the repo man comes for your car. Then you’re all set.
Glad I could help!

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

No, no, no, no… Obviously you don’t understand, Patrick (although that’s not surprising!). I want to break my contract with my mortgage company and my auto loan without any repercussions. I want to tell them that I’m only able to pay them 40 cents on the dollar but keep my house and my car.
That’s exactly what some people are talking about concerning my pension. Is it right?
Well, according to many posting here it is absolutely right to do that to me. Why? Because it would benefit you.
It’s as simple as that!
That’s the great world you’re encouraging…walk away from those contracts that are harmful to you. But, I’m sure that if someone tried to walk away from a contract with you that was to your benefit you’d be calling the law offices of……….
I wish I could think like you guys, my life would be so much simpler!!!

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Let’s put it this way Tom. If you have a mortgage and a car payment and then you get laid off and can’t find another job and the bank comes to you looking for their payment, what are you going to tell them? Will you simply create the money? Pull it out of thin air? How will you pay them?

BobN
BobN
10 years ago

Contracts obtained through fraud, coercion, or corruption are not valid. The political manipulation that led to the present structure of government-employee contracts is a combination of these three factors. Therefore the taxpayers should feel no obligation to stick to the letter of these contracts –
PROVIDED, however:
that they vote out of office the dishonest politicians (including school committee members and town councils) who enacted the one-sided laws and corruptly “negotiated” these dirty deals in the first place.

Andrew
Editor
10 years ago

Tom,
Your contractual argument would be right, if you are willing to accept a payout based on the money that you have actually contributed to the pension fund.
However, government has no right to enter into a contract that indefintiely awards you a portion of everyone’s future income, any more than I have a right to enter into a contract that sells the house of my next-door neighbor to a third party and awards me the proceeds. A contract is not valid when someone promises resources they don’t own, and government doesn’t own all of society, to spend at its will.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Andrew, if that’s the case, then all pension contracts are not legal and citizens could theoretically sue the government to have them struck down? They all include some degree of taxpayer money going into them.

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

Andrew,
My pension is based on what I paid into it and my length of service – period. What’s wrong with that?
“However, government has no right to enter into a contract that indefintiely awards you a portion of everyone’s future income…”
What does that mean????
BobN,
Are you kidding? Fraud, coercion, and corruption? lol You’re reaching now, boy!!!
Patrick,
No. They (my creditors) will sue me for breech of contract and take back my house and car.

Andrew
Editor
10 years ago

Patrick,
We decided over 300 years ago in our society that 1) government only “owned” what it acquired through a legislative apporpriations process and 2) the appropriations process could only make short-term claims on the property of the citizenry, for a year, maybe two, at most. We don’t let government award permanent appropriations to anyone indefinitely into the future.
Past monies that have gone into the pension system (above the employee contribution) were acquired through a legitimate appropriations process, so there is no basis for a lawsuit there. And going forward, there is no need for a lawsuit, because the representatives of the people can choose each year how much to appropriate.

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

I’m arguing the point regarding MY pension from MY pension system (City of Providence Class II) for Providence firefighters. I don’t know the particulars of the State employees or other municipal pension systems.
Providence firefighters (whether you want to acknowledge it or not) can’t be expected to work until they’re 65 or 70 years old. Most can’t be expected to work more than 25 to 30 years in the street.
Fraud should be rooted out at all costs and punished.
Double-dipping (more than one government pension) should be eliminated.
“Buying” of years of service somewhere else could also be eliminated.
Moving the minimum number of years of service to be eligible for a pension could be moved from 20 to 25.
I’m arguing about a basic pension to which I have contributed 9.5% of my salary for 30 years. No bump ups. No double-dipping. No fraud.
Yet you people seem to think that it is unfair of me to expect that.
I give up!!!

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

“Yet you people seem to think that it is unfair of me to expect that.” No, it’s not unfair for you to expect what you were promised. As michael has said a few times that if he knew that the city’s promises might not be kept, he probably would have looked into a different career 20 years ago. But you can’t get blood from a stone. I’ve said multiple times that first and foremost here, the politicians are the bad guys. They screwed this up. Second though is the union heads. They seem to think that once the contracts are signed, their job is done. Why haven’t all the union heads been suing the city to make sure your pension was fully funded? Why not make it a part of the contract to oversee the health of the firefighter’s pension with frequent financial statements and keep the city in line? They dropped the ball here in that they trusted the city to properly fund your pension. But they didn’t. So how do we fix it? Providence has no money and they’re going to request more from the state. “From the state” means it comes from taxpayers outside of Providence. I never agreed to this pension system of yours and I never voted for anyone who entered into that agreement with you. So why should a single penny of my tax money go toward the firefighters’ pension system? If it doesn’t, then you’re not going to get your full pension. I think that’s the argument here. I don’t know that anyone has said that you don’t *deserve* your pension as it was agreed to, but I think people are saying that the money isn’t there for any number of reasons. So what happens next? If the money isn’t there, how does… Read more »

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

“My pension is based on what I paid into it and my length of service – period.” – Tom Kenney
Your pension is “based on” what you paid into it the same way The Amityville Horror is “based on” a true story. You’re right that it technically it makes up a percentage, but other than that it is completely arbitrary and divorced from all financial reality.
Your contractual legal arguments and analogies are so idiotic and irrelevant that they aren’t even worth rebutting. You should probably just stop embarrassing yourself now and stick to harassing radio show sponsors or whatever it is that you do in your free time.
Oh yeah – “period.” It sounds more official when I use the word “period.”

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
10 years ago

People really need to understand the depths of the lying that unions and politicians engaged in. And that is exactly what it is – they are/were liars. It’s not like they didn’t know. To illustrate this, go to IAFF.org. That’s the International Association of Firefighters site. Ever heard of them Tom?
Poke around that site, partticularly the part that says “send us the latest prospectus from any bond offering in your municipality” and we’ll report back to you where the money is to pay you more come contract time.
The argument that ” we didnt know” just doesn’t fly when viewing this well funded and staffed organization advising the firefighters union. They DID know exactly what the finances were. And here’s why they never challenged the city about not funding the pensions – if the money was put in properly, that left less money available to keep the current pay and benefits high. So they said nothing, figuringthe taxpayees would always be called upon to bail them out. It was one big gamble with Toms pension. The gamble was made with the full knowledge of the situation. They wanted it ALL!
Tom, I’ll say it again – you were lied to and you are still being lied to! Wake up!!

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

“Why haven’t all the union heads been suing the city to make sure your pension was fully funded?”
This goes back to what I stated earlier about people stating things as facts that they are not familiar with. Our union, long ago during the Cianci administration, sued the City in an attempt to force them into making their “timely” required contributions into the system. A judge (right through appeals) ruled that the City did not have to make timely contributions to the system as long as they acknowledged the debt via deferred payment agreements AND did not miss any scheduled payments to the pensioners.
” Providence has no money and they’re going to request more from the state. ”
People here (conservatives, Republicans, right wingers or whatever), most of whom supported Carcieri, conveniently forget about the revenues collected by the state which was earmarked for the municipalities being hijacked by the Gov to balance his budget. Just doing his job, right?

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

“And here’s why they never challenged the city about not funding the pensions”
Another mouth that flaps without knowing the facts. See my previous post.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Tom, you’re exactly right, people here are stating things as fact that they know absolutely nothing about. Now I see where you’re coming from, I tried to work with you, now you’re just being intellectually dishonest.
“hijacked by the Gov (Carcieri) to balance his budget”
The Governor’s budget? Clearly you know nothing about how the state’s budgeting system works. For all intents and purposes, the Governor might as well submit a comic book as his budget. The budget belongs to the State Assembly, more specifically the House, more specifically the Finance Chair. That’s where the budget is created. That’s who f’d you on the “earmarks” you cite. Who was that? Look no further than Stevie Constantino. The same guy who is now in the current Governor’s cabinet. That’s where your ire should be focused. Not on “the right wing”, not on Carcieri. Go talk to him and ask him why he screwed you over.

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

“Your pension is “based on” what you paid into it the same way The Amityville Horror is “based on” a true story. You’re right that it technically it makes up a percentage, but other than that it is completely arbitrary and divorced from all financial reality.”
Dan,
It’s also based on the city contributing, as are 401K’s. But, the city pays nothing for me toward Social Security, saving the taxpayers 7.65% of my salary.
Also, if the contributions were made on a timely basis show me the numbers that support a statement like “…it is completely arbitrary and divorced from all financial reality.”
It is underfunded BECAUSE the city did not put the money in!

BobN
BobN
10 years ago

Tom Kenney uses the classic tactics: Deflect, Lie, Change the Subject, Call Names.
Nobody here is fooled by your act. The shame is that so many Rhode Islanders are.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

“It’s also based on the city contributing, as are 401K’s. But, the city pays nothing for me toward Social Security, saving the taxpayers 7.65% of my salary.”
If I keep getting “savings” like that, I’ll be broke.

Tom Kenney
Tom Kenney
10 years ago

I’m sure you’ll all be happy that this is my last post on this because, God forbid, someone disagrees with your overall politics.
But, especially BobN, show me a single lie I posted.
Not something I’ve said that you disagree with but a lie.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

People here (conservatives, Republicans, right wingers or whatever), most of whom supported Carcieri, conveniently forget about the revenues collected by the state which was earmarked for the municipalities being hijacked by the Gov to balance his budget. Just doing his job, right?
Posted by Tom Kenney at May 12, 2011 5:05 PM
Hey genius-Carcieri had ZERO power. It was the all-Democrat all the time GA your scummy union supports that cut local aid.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Why does Tom keep repeating that we are unwilling to listen to those with whom we disagree? Nobody here has ever refused to listen to or even respond to any of his arguments (if you could even call them that). He’s the one who throws a hissy fit and storms off the moment anyone challenges him on his numerous irrelevancies, inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and absolutely laughable union-approved propaganda.
This is a positive development, however. All Tom has ever done on this site is degrade the level of conversation and embarrass himself and his union further. Next time they should send somebody who can actually construct a sentence and spell basic words.

ANTHONY
ANTHONY
10 years ago

Let’s be honest. Everybody is a loser in RI with these unfunded mandates. How about the kids? They will be paying for years. The current crop of graduates face a dismal job market. The working class face onerous taxes that sap creativity and entrepreneurship. The populace is demoralized and over burdened in a whirlpool of corruption,incompetence and cronyism. The state is at a tipping point. Higher taxes will push it over the cliff…union bosses and all.

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
10 years ago

Tom I don’t think you are a liar. I do think you turn a blind eye to the truth. Also, I think you have been brainwashed and thereby are an enabler of a bunch of liars. You are pawn in their little game and will suffer for it.
Just ask yourself Tom, why, over the years, did your union leaders not insist on your pensions being funded for you? They claim to care so much for you and your brothers. Why didn’t they look out for you here?

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