Chafee Interview: Part II

Last week, I sat down with Governor Chafee for an interview on several topics. I've written, in this space, about his comments on medical marijuana. But there were other quotes of note, too.

Last month in a story on organized labor I reported that reamortizing the state's pension obligation - refinancing and kicking some of the problem down the road - was still part of the behind-the-scenes conversation on pension reform, even if the idea had largely disappeared from the public discourse.

The significance of reamortization: it allows the state to make less painful changes to the system now, which has its value, even as it compounds the problem down the line.

Last week, I put the question straight to Governor Chafee. Will reamortization be part of the pension reform package he is working out with Treasurer Gina Raimondo? "We're getting close [to a deal]," he said, "and reamortization, while nothing's set in stone, has been a prominent part of the discussions."

Other potential elements of the reform package, which have been widely reported: reductions in annual cost-of-living increases for pensioners, changes in the retirement age, and a shift toward a hybrid plan that would include 401(k)-style elements.

I also asked if we can expect any major shifts in education policy now that President Obama is offering waivers from punitive elements of the federal No Child Left Behind law and pushing more policymaking power back to the states. He didn't offer much on that front.

I may be reading too much into his non-answer, but I think it's reasonable to assume the locus of education reform, in this post-NCLB era, will remain somewhere outside the governor's office. And that's no great surprise, really. Governor Chafee, during the campaign, was firmly aligned with the more traditionalist approach to education - skeptical of charter schools and the like.

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