Conservative think tank Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity is touting a new report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University suggesting the state's unfunded pension liability (for state and local government) is twice as bad as the state estimates: $18 billion rather than $9.3 billion.
The state and the various cities and towns invest their pension funds, of course.
Yesterday, I wrote about the various political forces bearing down on members of the General Assembly as they decide how to vote on Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Governor Lincoln Chafee's tough pension reform package.
Among the factors they must consider: public employee unions have demonstrated they are willing and able to pick off Democrats, in primaries, who cross them.
A new poll from EngageRI, a coalition of businesses, trade asscoations, and social services agencies, finds three-quarters of Rhode Island voters support pension reform along the lines that Treasurer Gina Raimondo has been pushing.
The poll, conducted September 7-10, found 73 percent strongly or somewhat supporting a plan described as follows:
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.
In this week's Phoenix, I've got a piece suggesting that the looming fight over pension reform will provide a window on one of the most pressing questions in Rhode Island politics: just how much clout does organized labor have, circa 2011?
When I began reporting the piece last week, the union campaign to blunt the impacts of the reform wasn't a high-profile affair.
The public debate over pension reform has not focused, lately, on reamortization: refinancing the state's pension obligation and pushing some of the pain down the road.
Then-candidate Lincoln Chafee suggested the move during the gubernatorial campaign. But the idea seemed to have faded. Well, in a recent interview with the Phoenix, Chafee's director of administration Richard Licht says reamortization is still alive.
Bob Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association-Rhode Island, called for a "thoughtful pause" on pension reform in the wake of a judge's decision yesterday that cast some doubt on the state's ability to curb retirement benefits for existing employees.
His call, predictably, went unheeded. Treasurer Gina Raimondo and other state leaders declared that the state must move forward with pension reform while the case winds its way throught the courts.
Now that Treasurer Gina Raimondo has laid out some options for substantial pension reform, the hard part: getting meaningful legislation passed.
Last year, the Pew Center on the States released a report titled "The trillion dollar gap" that took a nationwide look at the pension challenge (see pages 7-11, in the executive summary, for an overview of reform efforts across the country).