Firefighters claim top pensions in RI


My friend Tim White has been doing an excellent series on WPRI-TV, Probing Pensions, looking at the high cost of overly generous pensions at a time when Rhode Island and its cities and towns continue to struggle with budget issues.

His latest report details how the most lucrative pension in the state goes to retired Providence fire chief Gilbert McLaughlin, who collects a monthly tax-free sum of $12,991. The 11 other top post-tax pensions, can be found here

As White reports, former RI Supreme Court chief justice Joseph Weisberger receives a monthly pension of $15,495, but after taxes, the amount is reduced to about $9700.

Providence Mayor David Cicilline tells White that pensions like those received by McLaughlin are "an affront to the hardworking taxpayers of the city . . .  The pensions you're describing were awarded under an old system before I took office and those would never happen to day."

But we're paying for them. Our top retirees called it quits between 1990 and 1992, at a time when generous annual "cost-of-living increases" were handed out. In fact, thanks to compound interest, their annual pension take-home doubles about every 11 years. By our count, and confirmed by city hall, there are 108 retired Providence firefighters or police officers collecting these generous pensions.

Tim White asks, "$13,000 a month tax-free how is this ok?"

Paul Doughty, the President, Providence Firefighters' Union responds, "That's a lot of money."

Even Providence Firefighters' Union president Paul Doughty is amazed by the figure. He points out, though; our top five were high-salary department chiefs, not rank-and-file union members. But he agrees pensions were not meant for people to get rich.

"As a taxpayer, they should have looked at it better then," says Doughty.

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