As We’re Waiting for
Godot Gina, the Latest on Rhode Island’s Public Pension Disaster
So here’s where we stand.
> Tomorrow at 2 pm, G.T. Gina Raimondo presents the history and making of Rhode Island’s pension crisis, to be followed by a “menu” of remedy options.
> She admits to being on a bit of a crusade. Like that’s a bad thing when even a liberal think tank in Washington, the Center on Budget Policy Priorities, is aghast, in an analytical sort of way, by the severity of Rhode Island’s unfunded pension liability (the funding level is now less than 50%), concluding that only “radical changes” will solve the problem. (H/T WPRI’s Ted Nesi.)
> This summer, the General Assembly will convene a study commission to examine the options presented by the G.T. I know, I know. As Speaker Gordon Fox is talking about making it a BRAC style commision, however, there is hope that, this time, something productive will come of a study commission. Not to mention the urgency involved in staring down the barrel, in little more than a year, of a doubling of the taxpayer contribution (to 621 million non-existent dollars).
> General Assembly leadership have agreed to a reconvening of the G.A. in the fall to take up the recommendations of the pension study commission.
> While acknowledging that the amount is “nowhere near what’s needed”, the Governor is standing by his recommendation that a 3% raise coming to state employees be channelled to a higher pension contribution. The Senate President agrees with him. I agree with the employees, who are resisting. There should be no increase in anyone’s contribution until the pension system is salvaged.
> We would be remiss if we did not mention the rumor circulating that the General Assembly has agreed to a compromise: pension reform gets passed but so do binding arbitration and perpetual contracts. If this is the case, don’t bother with pension reform. Better to have the swift financial death of no pension reform than the slow, agonizing end represented by binding arb and perpetual contracts.
> And the last item (for the moment) on pensions: a couple of legislators, who clearly have been residing in a different solar system for the last twenty years, filed a bill that would define pensions benefits as property rights. Hey, chuckleheads. Quit lying to our public employees. You can’t create rights to something that not only does not exist but has no hope of coming into existence. The checks WILL start bouncing unless we do more than sit around smirkily passing empty laws.