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The Progressive Defection

There was much that was striking about last night's vote to approve a sweeping pension overhaul. Ted Nesi over at WPRI, who has provided excellent coverage of the issue from start to finish, tackles some of the big themes in a post-vote analysis.

But one thing that strikes me is the near-unanimous support the legislature's progressive wing, generally quite friendly to organized labor, gave to the bill.

State Senators Josh Miller and Rhoda Perry backed the bill. Representatives Edith Ajello, Christopher Blazejewski, and Arthur Handy were all on board. And that's just a partial list.

I spoke with Ajello this morning. "It was not a happy vote," she said, "not a happy evening, I think, for anyone." But the state needed to confront its fiscal problems, she said. And for progressives, the fate of the state's social services regime was top of mind.

As the pension system eats up a larger and larger portion of the state budget, after all, that means less money to spend on other programs. "I think a lot of us were mindful of the recent cuts to the developmentally disabled," Ajello said. Progressives did not want to see more of the same.

Hopefully, Ajello said, the state can now turn to boosting its inadequate investment in higher education, among other priorities.

I asked Ajello how the conversations with her friends in the labor movement had gone for the past few weeks. She really hadn't had many, she said. They seemed to know where she stood.

Labor, in the end, had few allies on this one. 

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