Still Wary of Consolidation, Even of Pensions
RI Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere (R, Westerly) reminds me that I’m wary of consolidation, even when it’s meant to resolve the state’s pension crisis. The voices of National Education Association Rhode Island Executive Director Bob Walsh calling for reamortization of the pension system and union consultant Tom Sgouros urging Rhode Island to treat pensions as an annual expense rather than a looming debt keep hovering around suggestions such as Algiere’s first point on a list of pension suggestions:
Create one whole-state system that provides state, city, and town workers with comparable benefits.
To the extent that municipal pension programs are struggling, it’s because they’re more apt to be caught between the unions’ demands and the taxpayers’ willingness to pay. Consequently, they’ve been apt to make promises to the former and shirk their responsibility to help the latter understand the real cost (mainly by making them pay it). If final responsibility for public pensions in the state were flipped from the cities and towns to the State House, which side of that coin do you think would be more likely be found facing up?
Some of Algiere’s other suggestions, it seems to me, answer the problem without consolidation (perhaps better without it):
* No municipal contract or budget can be accepted if it increases that municipality’s unfunded liability.
* A municipality must fund 100 percent of its required contribution.
Don’t take the heat off of municipalities; make them face it. Don’t move the pension system farther away from the people who must fund it; stop disguising the cost.