Rhode Island’s Republican Party took it on the chin last month, once again failing to win a single federal or statewide office and managing to lose seven of their 18 seats in the General Assembly. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise, since just 10% of Rhode Island voters are registered Republicans.
If it’s any consolation, Rhode Island Republicans aren’t alone in their troubles – at least two other state GOPs are reeling in the aftermath of this year’s voting. The Boston Phoenix’s David Bernstein reports on the Massachusetts Republican Party’s problems:
But this year, there’s something different about the postmortems, in the wake of Scott Brown’s eight-point loss for re-election to the US Senate and Richard Tisei’s narrow defeat to Congressman John Tierney.
This time, it’s GOP insiders and officeholders in the state suggesting that their cause is hopeless — that their numerical and institutional disadvantages just might mean that they simply cannot win, beyond a small smattering of state legislative districts and countywide law-enforcement positions. …
The defeatism within the party suggests that top-flight candidates might be hard to recruit. If so, the Democrats’ stranglehold on the state will only tighten. And we will look back at 2012 as the year the MassGOP surrendered.
Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse for Republicans in California, it appears they did. And at the congressional level, there are still three uncalled House races where GOP incumbents are trailing their Democratic challengers with 100 percent of the votes in. …
The presidential exit polls paint an especially grim picture that suggests the state won’t be competitive in any way for a long time. Obama won every income group, every education group, big and small cities, suburbs and independents.
One point that stands out in all three cases is that the occasional election of a prominent Republican officeholder isn’t necessarily a signal that the state party’s long-term prospects are improving.
If it weren’t for the Golden State capital of Sacramento, there wouldn’t be a single large metropolitan area in the United States where Providence could say the job market is worse.
Among the country’s 50 biggest metro areas, only two – Sacramento and Providence – reported an overall decrease in employment during the 12 months ended in February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week. The Providence metro area includes Rhode Island and part of Bristol County, Mass.
“In Sacramento, the decline was mostly due to continued drops in state and local government employment; private employment was essentially flat over the year,” The Economist’s Ryan Avent reports. “In Providence, by contrast, government employment rose; lingering weakness across the economy seemed to be the issue.”
It looks like the nation’s largest public pension fund will follow the example set by Rhode Island, the L.A. Times reports:
A key committee of the board of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System on Tuesday voted 6 to 2 to cut its benchmark assumed rate of return on its investments to 7.5% from a two-decade-old target of 7.75%. …
Alan Milligan, CalPERS’ chief actuary, recommended that the pension fund’s discount rate, which forecasts assumed rates of return on its $236-billion investment portfolio, be lowered to 7.25%.
The bigger change, Milligan said, “is the best course of action for this fund in the long term.” He predicted that CalPERS had a 54% of reaching the 7.25% goal, but only a 1-in-2 possibility of hitting 7.5% in any given year.
The committee, after hearing testimony from local government officials and public sector labor union representatives, voted to take the more conservative approach.
In practice, this change is less dramatic than what happened in Rhode Island – since CalPERS starts at 7.75%, this would be a decrease of 25 basis points, compared with Rhode Island’s one-time decrease of 75 basis points. But it does make Rhode Island’s outlook seem like less of an outlier.
Rhode Island’s 36 independent city and town pension funds set their own investment return forecasts, which range from 8.5% to 7%. Providence recently lowered its forecast from 8.5% to 8.25%.
It’s worth noting, too, that changing the investment forecast was only one of the changes made on paper that ballooned Rhode Island’s pension liability last spring. New longevity forecasts that predict longer lifespans for pensioners also had a major impact, as Paul Valletta memorably noted.
If it’s any consultation to Providence, the city isn’t alone in weighing a Chapter 9 filing, Bloomberg reports:
The City Council of Stockton, California, will be asked to vote next week to default on bonds and take the first steps toward bankruptcy, according to a person familiar with the council’s agenda.
City Manager Bob Deis has told council members that he intends to put an item on their agenda for a Feb. 28 meeting that would ask them to approve mediation with creditors as the first step required under a new state law before the city can seek bankruptcy ….
Deis also will ask the council to agree to stop making payments on municipal bonds beginning March 1, to suspend cash payouts to employees for unused vacation and sick leave, and to begin an investigation into the causes of the city’s fiscal crisis ….
Stockton, an agricultural center of about 292,000, is fighting to avert California’s biggest bankruptcy since Vallejo in 2008. The city has shrunk its payroll, including a quarter of the roughly 425-member police force. Twice since 2010 it has declared a state of fiscal emergency to force cuts on public employees.
As the public employee pension and health care benefit crisis sweeps across the nation, some states are dealing seriously with these multibillion-dollar threats to public services and treasuries. And other states remain in deep denial. California, to no one’s surprise, is moving stridently in the wrong direction. …
[Rhode Island's] sweeping reforms were passed in a union-dominated state, where Democrats control even bigger legislative majorities than in California. Time magazine called Rhode Island “The Little State That Could.”
By contrast, California is “The Big State That Can’t.” Or maybe the right word is “won’t,” given that there is no real reason that California leaders can’t adopt similar reforms if they had the desire to do so. …
Wouldn’t it be nice if California’s legislators, governor and courts rolled up their sleeves and behaved like their counterparts in Rhode Island? Then again that would take a level of political maturity not seen in this state for a long time.
If it’s any consolation to Mr. Greenhut, as I write this the temperature in Orange County is 60 degrees, compared with a brisk 45 here in Rhode Island.
Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s star is on the rise, and not just around here.
A talk-radio host in the Golden State declared this week that he’d like to trade Calif. Treasurer Bill Lockyer for Raimondo because he admires her efforts to overhaul the state pension system despite being a liberal Democrat.
“I would like to propose trades,” Chris Reed said Tuesday during his “Top Story” program on KOGO-AM. “I’ll trade [Calif. Gov.] Jerry Brown for Governor Cuomo of New York and I’ll trade Bill Lockyer for the treasurer in Rhode Island in a second, because there are Democrats in this country who take this stuff quite seriously, just not enough of them here in California.”
“She’s actually my new hero,” Dean told Reed. “She really is outstanding. It might be a good idea to bring her to California and perhaps introduce her to some of the Democratic legislators here, because I think they need that kind of input.”
The praise for Raimondo came during an extended discussion between the two about the Ocean State’s pension funding situation. ”We have a race to see which of the 50 states will be the Greece of North America, and increasingly it’s looking like Rhode Island,” Reed said.