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Laffey cites lack of structural change

 

Popping back into public view with an op-ed in today's ProJo, Steve Laffey resumes the mantra for his forthcoming 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

While there are some good things in the budget, that it is balanced on over $100 million in savings from Medicaid and personnel that are unlikely to be attained means that elected officials continue to manage the decline of this great state. With a poor economy and a frighteningly high unemployment rate, Rhode Island has yet to turn the fiscal corner with this budget.

To turn the corner we need to reinvent Rhode Island. We need real structural change to lift us from the bottom rung of states and transform Rhode Island into a place where our kids can stay and prosper, and where new businesses can locate and thrive. If our state legislators had the courage to solve just one of our major structural problems this year we would be on our way to being a state that could start to compete.

Let me give you an example: solving our state pension disaster. The problem: Rhode Island ranks 49th out of 50 states in funding its state pensions. We have an unfunded liability of over $4.3 billion and are scheduled to spend $397 million this year alone on state pension benefits. One out of every eight dollars we are taxed is going to the pension system!

Now, the legislature could fix this problem. Under state law, without any negotiations with the unions, it can change the pension system. In 2005 there were much-heralded “reforms” to the system. However, the changes only affected younger workers. Thus, a large majority of the workers were not affected at all. These “reforms” only got the legislators through the 2006 election cycle.

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