Raimondo to lawmakers: Don’t skip $12.9M pension depositJune 20th, 2013 at 5:34 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
Governor Chafee and Democratic legislative leaders have ignored Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s argument that they should make a $12.9 million payment into the state pension system as part of the 2013-14 state budget.
The House Finance Committee voted Tuesday to repeal a provision of state law that requires Rhode Island to put surplus tax revenue into the underfunded pension system for state employees and teachers. By repealing the law as part of the budget, taxpayers can put $12.9 million less toward pensions next year alone.
In a Feb. 6 letter to House Finance Chairman Helio Melo, Raimondo said she opposed ending the requirement that surplus tax revenue goes to the pension fund “because providing retirement security is a top priority for me.” Raimondo’s office said Thursday her position on the issue hasn’t changed.
“While I appreciate the difficult task facing you in balancing the state’s budget,” Raimondo wrote last winter, the provision “would delay our efforts to return the pension system to a healthy funding level” and “remove substantially more funding from the pension system” than a similar measure proposed last year.
Chafee’s aides have argued that difficult choices were required to balance a budget that started out with a $128 million shortfall while increasing funding for education, job training and other programs.
The decision to skip the payment comes the same week a study by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute criticized Rhode Island lawmakers for continually underfunding state employees’ pensions. Moderate Party founder Ken Block urged Raimondo to drop her own $10-million revolving fund for roads and bridges to free up enough money to make most of the $12.9-million pension payment.
Even if Chafee and Democratic Assembly leaders did agree to make the $12.9 million payment, taxpayers would still be putting vastly less money into the pension fund than they they were supposed to before the 2011 overhaul passed – somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million less.