raimondomania

Gina Raimondo is this month’s Institutional Investor cover girl

January 9th, 2013 at 12:36 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s star just keeps rising in the world of high finance.

The new issue of Institutional Investor, a monthly magazine with a wide readership among financial types, features a long cover story about Raimondo. The front caption says “Solving the Retirement Dilemma” and the Web headline is “Rhode Island Treasurer Defies Conventional Pension Wisdom.”

The article by Institutional Investor senior writer Imogen Rose-Smith is a favorable but thorough retelling of the now familiar story about how Raimondo – described as “slight and personable” but “quietly ambitious” – pushed the pension law through. It links the treasurer with her friend Newark Mayor Cory Booker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and the mayors of San Diego and San Jose, Calif.

“With focus and determination, a sure command of finance and a gift for forging consensus, Raimondo took up the challenge,” the article declares, and notes the 41-year-old will likely run for governor in 2014.

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Politico: 2014 may launch Gina Raimondo on the national stage

January 7th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman report for Politico:

Prominent Democratic activists and women’s groups are determined to ensure the party fields a powerful female presidential candidate in 2016 ….

Privately, Democratic strategists acknowledge if [Hillary] Clinton chooses not run, the list of women who could plausibly run for president next time is relatively short. Several top Democrats mentioned Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York as potential candidates. Many liberal Democrats would like to see Warren run, but she has emphatically ruled out a campaign only a few years into her first Senate term.

What’s more, the 2014 cycle has the potential to vault more than a few Democratic women onto the national stage. National Democrats pointed to women attorneys general in California, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Illinois as potential breakout stars, as well as Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo.

Without a doubt, this is a big achievement on Raimondo’s part: getting her name included in elite speculation about the future leaders of the national Democratic Party from a perch that often barely gets noticed here in Rhode Island, let alone across the country. That sort of talent (and luck) is the stuff that national careers are made of; there’s a reason somebody like Josh Brumberger, who was previously a John Edwards aide, is now working for Raimondo.

That said, newspaper archives are filled with the names of future political stars who never made it big, and Raimondo faces plenty of risks. “Huge Question,” Dante Ramos, The Boston Globe’s deputy editorial editor, tweeted in response, “Will pension reform go over well with national Dems?” And even before that there’s the question of whether it will go over well with Rhode Island Dems in next year’s gubernatorial primary.

Indeed, one of the oddest things about Raimondo’s political strategy is how little she’s done to shore up her left flank since pension reform passed. If the pension law was her Sister Souljah moment – a time when she broke with her party’s orthodoxy and established her independent credentials – it would behoove her to start balancing it with some moments that play up her affinity for Democratic and progressive priorities. So far she hasn’t done much of that (payday lending being an exception), though there’s still plenty of time.

• Related: Gina Raimondo’s campaign war chest passes $1 million mark (Nov. 1)


Raimondo to speak in Chicago, receive award in NYC tomorrow

December 4th, 2012 at 3:42 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Treasurer Gina Raimondo is piling up frequent-flier miles this week.

On Wednesday morning, Raimondo will be the guest of honor at a breakfast event at the Union League Club of Chicago, a 133-year-old private membership club in the Windy City. The $25-a-person event, called “Making State Government Work Again,” is co-hosted by the Institute for Truth in Accounting. Here’s their preview:

Treasurer Raimondo has become a nationally-recognized leader in reforming state government, having been described by The Wall Street Journal as “The Democrat Who Took on the Unions.” Treasurer Raimondo will discuss how she persuaded the voting public, labor rank-and-file, and Rhode Island’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly to put state pensions back on sound financial footing.

A former venture capitalist, Treasurer Raimondo was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and a law degree from Yale. The mother of two children, she embarked on a political career after learning about the closing of local library branches and decided “enough was enough.”

(Organized labor in Rhode Island disputes that Raimondo persuaded them.)

Hours later, Raimondo is scheduled to be in New York City, where she’ll receive the Freda Johnson Award from the Northeast Women in Public Finance during The Bond Buyer’s Deal of the Year Awards, a black-tie affair at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue.

And on Monday Raimondo was in Washington, D.C., her office confirmed after WPRI.com requested an interview with her about the pension lawsuit. The last time Raimondo traveled to Chicago, it earned her a glowing editorial in the Chicago Tribune.

• Related: Gina Raimondo’s campaign war chest passes $1 million mark (Nov. 1)

Tim White contributed to this report.


Raimondo will get award in NYC next month for pension work

November 15th, 2012 at 10:46 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Treasurer Gina Raimondo will have to clear a little more room on her mantle.

The Northeast Women in Public Finance has announced Raimondo will be honored with the group’s annual Freda Johnson Award, which honors women who have done distinguished work on government fiscal issues. Johnson was the first woman to lead the public finance department at Moody’s Investors Service.

“The treasurer is honored to be recognized with the Freda Johnson Award,” Raimondo spokeswoman Joy Fox told WPRI.com. “She remains committed to working to move Rhode Island forward by providing exceptional performance and data-driven results.”

Raimondo will receive the award at The Bond Buyer’s 11th annual Deal of the Year Awards dinner on Dec. 5 at The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

In a statement nominating Raimondo, one member of Northeast Women in Public Finance praised the treasurer for her “relentless effort to detail the magnitude of the problem, and relate it to the everyday lives of Rhode Islanders, transformed the pension system from broken promises to stable, sustainable retirement funding,” according to Bond Buyer.

• Related: Gina Raimondo’s campaign war chest passes $1 million mark (Nov. 1)

(photo: The Manhattan Institute)


Raimondo named a 2012 ‘Brave Thinker’ by Atlantic magazine

October 25th, 2012 at 10:46 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

What does Gina Raimondo have in common with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts and the Russian protest group Pussy Riot? They’re all on The Atlantic magazine’s 2012 list of Brave Thinkers.

The Atlantic’s Don Peck says generations of politicians promised plush pensions to win support from public employees without setting money aside to pay the bills, leaving current leaders with the bill. “Raimondo is one of the first to perform that necessary reckoning,” he writes.

The Atlantic apparently has a soft spot for Rhode Island’s top female policymakers: Education Commissioner Deborah Gist made its 2010 list of Brave Thinkers, too.

Update: Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker highlighted Raimondo’s honor in a Facebook post Thursday morning. “I’m so proud of my friend and former classmate Gina Raimondo,” Booker wrote. “She is showing great leadership in tough times – I hope she eventually becomes the Governor of her state.”

Booker, a rising star in the Democratic Party and potential 2013 candidate for New Jersey governor, roomed with Raimondo’s husband at Yale Law School and donated $1,000 to her campaign last March. Of course, Booker also gets along with Raimondo rival Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, so Rhode Island’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign could leave him with a smorgasbord of options.

(h/t: Ian Donnis)


WaPo’s Fred Hiatt is latest national journalist to laud Raimondo

September 9th, 2012 at 8:52 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Via Ian Donnis, relentlessly centrist Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt is the latest big media type to heap praise on Treasurer Gina Raimondo for shepherding through last year’s pension law:

At the Democratic convention in Charlotte last week, a delegate from Rhode Island walked up to Gina Raimondo and said, “You cost me $300,000.”

Raimondo, the state treasurer who had quarterbacked a major pension reform, steeled herself for abuse. Instead, the delegate, a retired schoolteacher and wife of another retired schoolteacher, thanked Raimondo and gave her a big hug.

“This system was going to blow up,” she said. “Thank God you fixed it.”

These days it sometimes seems that the only alternative to the paralysis that blocks entitlement reform in Washington is the kind of all-out war waged by Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. If you find both extremes depressing, the story of Gina Raimondo may cheer you — to a point.

Read the rest here. Hiatt gets a few thoughts out of the treasurer that we hear less often, such as why she pushed for a hybrid pension plan (“important to me as a Democrat, because retirement is about security”) and why Rhode Island needs to on faster economic growth. As Ian pointed out, though, Hiatt also flatly labels her “the most popular politician in Rhode Island” – a questionable assertion considering the high approval of Angel Taveras, her rival pension reformer.

• Related: Raimondomania spreads to Europe: FT calls her ‘extraordinary’ (April 4)


Raimondo, Taveras square off on pensions at rival DNC panels

September 5th, 2012 at 2:58 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee got a prime-time speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention. But elsewhere in Charlotte the two Democrats who could vie to replace him in 2014 are burnishing their rival reformist credentials.

Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras are each taking part in panel discussions Thursday to discuss their contrasting approaches to scaling back pension benefits in Rhode Island over the past year and a half. The two first-term Democrats are both expected to run for governor in two years.

Raimondo is part of a star-studded lineup of speakers hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and Bloomberg LP, while Taveras will discuss Providence’s pension deal at an “All Politics is Local” forum organized by the Conference of Democratic Mayors.

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Gina Raimondo is the WSJ editorial board’s kind of Democrat

September 4th, 2012 at 1:15 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

From this morning’s Wall Street Journal editorial page:

Here and there in the hinterlands, you can see a glimpse of new Democratic thinking. Gloria Romero in California wants to reduce the power of teachers unions, and treasurer Gina Raimondo dared to rein in public pension benefits in Rhode Island.

Unmentioned by the WSJ is that the Rhode Island politician who’s speaking tonight at the convention in support of Obama – independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee – actually signed the pension law Raimondo pushed through.

Separately, RIPR’s Ian Donnis flags the head of a right-leaning Kentucky think tank lauding Raimondo at length – and closing his praise with this questionable assertion:

So what do Rhode Islanders think of Raimondo’s efforts to bring some common sense to their state’s out-of-control pension system?

Apparently, they like it.

Raimondo is raising huge amounts of cash as she campaigns for reelection. Sometimes doing the right thing is politically difficult, but rewarding none the less.

Raimondo is undoubtedly popular – her approval rating was 56% in the February WPRI 12 poll – but her fundraising prowess probably says less about her backing among the general electorate and more about her appeal to well-heeled financial types. Her predecessor Frank Caprio raised millions but came in third when he ran for governor, after all.


Chicago Tribune meets ‘rock star’ Raimondo, praises EngageRI

April 6th, 2012 at 12:26 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Treasurer Raimondo met with the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board recently, and it seems they came away impressed – so much so they want President Obama’s former chief of staff to create an “Engage Illinois” group modeled on Engage Rhode Island.

“Governor Quinn, Mayor Emanuel: Engage Illinois,” the Trib wrote in an editorial Friday. (That would be recently elected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was Obama’s right-hand man.) ”For our part, we will keep trying to help.”

Illinois’ pension system is the worst-funded in the country and a big source of angst in the Land of Lincoln. At a Tribune forum on Wednesday, “Emanuel raised, and Quinn discussed, the best idea of the night: that Illinois consider pension changes that the similarly Democratic state of Rhode Island adopted in November,” the editorialists said.

Here’s the lesson the Trib took from Raimondo’s work last year:

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Raimondomania spreads to Europe: FT calls her ‘extraordinary’

April 4th, 2012 at 9:11 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Raimondomania has officially jumped the pond.

The big media’s increasingly familiar narrative of how Treasurer Gina Raimondo single-handedly fixed Rhode Island’s pension system (and, judging by the coverage, barely broke a sweat) will be read Thursday at high-powered breakfast tables across Europe thanks to the Financial Times.

The FT’s Gillian Tett – who’s become one of the world’s most influential journalists thanks to her savvy pre-crisis coverage of the credit bubble – does the honors this time in a piece headlined “Raimondo offers vision for pension crisis.”

Just a few years ago, Tett explains, “the iconic north eastern US state” of Rhode Island “epitomised everything wrong with American state finances.” Not anymore:

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WSJ publishes love letter to Raimondo in Saturday newspaper

March 24th, 2012 at 4:06 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

It seems safe to say the financial press has a bit of a crush on Treasurer Gina Raimondo.

Fresh off her CNBC appearance Friday morning, Raimondo is the subject of The Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Interview feature on Saturday. The headline (stop me if you’ve heard this one): “The Democrat Who Took on the Unions.”

WSJ assistant opinion editor Allysia Finley, who wrote about Central Falls last year, wrote the 1,600-word profile, which pours on the Raimondomania pretty thick. “So this is Gina Raimondo?” Finley asks at the start. “The state treasurer who single-handedly overhauled Rhode Island’s pension system and has unions screaming bloody murder? I had imagined her a bit, well, bigger.”

The only discordant note is sounded by Paul Valletta of the Cranston firefighters union, who gets two sentences to dismiss last year’s pension overhaul as “just a steppingstone for her to run for higher office.”

“Ms. Raimondo poses a greater threat to the labor movement than any Republican, because she undercuts its narrative that pension reform is merely a cause célèbre for conservatives who want to stick it to unions” – which, of course, is part of why she’s now the subject of a 1,600-word profile on the WSJ’s editorial page.

One glaring omission in the story is the municipal pension crisis, which is as bad as ever. Raimondo maintains that the situation with the 36 locally run plans is too messy to have been addressed in last November’s law, but it’s fair to say Governor Chafee, Mayor Taveras and others think that was a huge missed opportunity.

• Related: Raimondo opposes Chafee move to cut pension-fund deposits (March 21)


Watch Gina Raimondo talk pensions on CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box’

March 23rd, 2012 at 3:15 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Treasurer Gina Raimondo was in New York City this morning and stopped by CNBC’s studios for a 10-minute chat about the new pension law on “Squawk Box,” the financial network’s morning show. “The Rhode Not Traveled” was the chyron. Raimondo also appeared on the program back in December.

It’s no prime-time “Newsmakers” special, but it’s still interesting. Here’s the video:

(“Ray-mon-DOE”?)


Raimondo, in governor-minded move, backs T.F. Green runway

February 14th, 2012 at 11:11 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The “pension lady” is expanding her portfolio.

Treasurer Gina Raimondo penned an op-ed for The Providence Journal on Tuesday calling for the Warwick City Council to drop its opposition to an expansion of T.F. Green Airport’s runway:

As treasurer, I am responsible for managing the state’s bond offerings to investors and managing the state’s debt. Next month, I will be hitting the road to talk to financial analysts and potential investors about Rhode Island’s bonds. It is important to be pro-active in selling our strengths and articulating why people should invest in the Ocean State.

Improvement of our infrastructure through projects such as the T.F. Green runway expansion will be viewed positively by rating agencies, potential investors and businesses already engaged in, or considering doing business in, Rhode Island. …

Now is the time to show Rhode Island’s potential investors — whether they are contemplating a business expansion or a move of their business operations to the Ocean State, or considering the purchase of our bonds — that we are serious about continuing to move forward on our path to prosperity. Extending the runway at T.F. Green Airport is one important way to do just that. It is time to make this happen.

Considering Raimondo is still just the treasurer, parts of the op-ed seem like a stretch; is the creation of an investor-relations portal really linked to the expansion of an airport runway? Raimondo would likely respond that she’s using her high profile to help push Rhode Island in a more prosperous direction.

Still, for political observers watching for signs of whether Raimondo will run for governor in 2014, her decision to take a public stand on a major issue outside her jurisdiction is noteworthy – especially since it comes a day after Governor Chafee called the Warwick City Council to lobby on the project’s behalf.

• Related: Raimondo ‘not ruling anything out’ on 2014 bid for higher office (Jan. 27)

(photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)


Raimondo ‘not ruling anything out’ on 2014 bid for higher office

January 27th, 2012 at 6:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Treasurer Gina Raimondo acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that she may seek higher office in 2014, which will add to the heated speculation about her future plans.

Asked whether she would rule out a run for higher office in 2014, Raimondo told WPRI.com: ”As you know, I am obsessed with being a good treasurer and working as hard as I possibly can. But I’m not ruling anything out, no.”

Raimondo, 40, didn’t get more specific than that during a half-hour interview in her State House office, but speculation is widespread that she may run for governor in two years when independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee is up for reelection. She had $513,584 in her campaign war chest as of Sept. 30, more than any other politician at the state level in Rhode Island.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Raimondo said. “Pension reform was a huge step forward. I do think Rhode Island is being nationally recognized as a leader on one of the toughest issues the country faces, and saving $4 billion is a big nut – it’s big, no doubt about it – it’s big. But sure, there’s more to do.”

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What’s new in the Bloomberg News profile of Gina Raimondo

January 10th, 2012 at 11:28 am by under Nesi's Notes

Raimondomania continues.

The latest entrant is Michael McDonald, a reporter with the Boston bureau of Bloomberg News. His profile of the treasurer – given the oh-so-Bloomberg headline “Gina Raimondo Math Convinces Rhode Island of America’s Prospects” – moved on the wire service today.

McDonald’s story is a sympathetic but thorough look at the treasurer’s story and her role in passing the pension law last month, and he doesn’t include any glaring errors the way The New York Times did last fall. A few fun nuggets, also flagged by Ian Donnis on Twitter:

• Raimondo’s donors include Orin Kramer, Roger Altman, Whitney Tilson and Sheryl Sandberg (of Facebook).

• Newark, New Jersey’s mayor Cory Booker roomed with Raimondo’s husband, Andy Moffit, at Yale Law.

• Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Pa. Treasurer Rob McCord have reached out to her for pension advice.

Elsewhere on the Web, a rare note of dissension about the treasurer was sounded Tuesday on People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch blog. The post argues Raimondo’s speech last week at the Manhattan Institute “is likely to raise eyebrows back home because of what she said and where she said it.”

An earlier version of this post said Booker is the mayor of Trenton; he is the mayor of Newark.


WSJ editorial board extols Raimondo for ‘Rhode Island Miracle’

January 5th, 2012 at 11:01 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s trip to New York City this week yielded more than just an award from the Manhattan Institute.

The Wall Street Journal’s influential editorial page – which already lavished praise on the new pension law the day after Thanksgiving – ballyhoos the effort once again in Friday’s paper with a piece entitled “Rhode Island Miracle Explained.” The subhed says, “How a liberal state reformed its pensions.”

Here’s a taste:

Good news in politics is rare these days, but an event that qualifies is the liberal state of Rhode Island’s recent landmark pension reform. Gina Raimondo, the state treasurer who led the effort, visited the Manhattan Institute yesterday to explain the miracle, and it turns out she didn’t need heavenly powers, only political nerve and good judgment. …

Ms. Raimondo said those solutions had to be discussed openly. Rhode Island’s reform process was so transparent that even when a draft bill to implement the changes leaked to the press before its formal introduction, it was essentially a nonstory because the reforms had already been discussed publicly.

And voila, real change and hope. We recommend a multistate road show for Ms. Raimondo, starting with New York, California and Illinois.

You can read the whole editorial here.


Watch Gina Raimondo on MSNBC’s ‘Dylan Ratigan Show’

December 30th, 2011 at 8:22 am by under Nesi's Notes

Raimondomania hits cable news. Watch the video here. (The embed codes still aren’t working for me.)


Watch Gina Raimondo’s appearance on CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box’

December 21st, 2011 at 8:56 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Well well well, look who popped up on the nation’s top financial network this morning:

Raimondo also has an op-ed in today’s Providence Journal supporting Governor Chafee’s call for changes to fix the 36 locally run pension plans. I can’t link to it because the new e-edition’s share-articles tool is broken, but here’s an excerpt:

In recent weeks, I have met with leaders from municipalities seeking guidance on best practices, how to structure their process, and how to best use their actuaries.

In the coming weeks, Treasury will launch an online tool kit, based on the RIRSA process, which municipalities can use to assess their situations and craft their solutions. We will also host working sessions throughout the upcoming year for local leaders to help guide each stage of their work.

And while local leaders work toward solutions, we at the state level should also study creative ways to incorporate local plans into the state-administered municipal pension program. This move would provide for uniform benefits across municipalities, pooling of assets managed by the state and a legal requirement for municipalities to make annual required contributions.

Update: Hard Deadlines‘ John McDaid tracked down a link to Raimondo’s op-ed in the e-edition via the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition’s daily newsletter.

(h/t: Charlie Kroll and Patrick Laverty)


N. Dakota not alone – 4 more ballyhoo RI pension law nationally

December 19th, 2011 at 9:16 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Last week’s Grand Forks Herald editorial calling for Treasurer Gina Raimondo to be named Time magazine’s Person of the Year was certainly attention-grabbing, as is the award she’ll receive next month from The Manhattan Institute. But those are just a few examples of the national attention Rhode Island’s new pension law is getting.

The most interesting take of late comes from Governing magazine columnist Girard Millar, who devoted an entire article to the new law and explained why he thinks it will survive a legal challenge:

The new law invokes the “police power” of the state to take actions necessary to preserve the pension system. As drastic as its opponents may claim it to be, it leaves employees and retirees with a “reasonable benefit” (in my view), which is an essential feature to satisfy federal case precedents. There are other ways the new law was crafted to meet key tests that federal judges have used when evaluating federal contract law issues for public pensions. … These components of the statute thus set the stage for changes to incumbent employees’ pension benefits, which otherwise are typically protected as “contractual” in state and federal courts.

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N. Dakota paper: Raimondo should be Time Person of the Year

December 15th, 2011 at 1:00 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Rhode Islanders aren’t the only ones enamored with Gina Raimondo.

One of North Dakota’s largest newspapers says Time magazine made a mistake by naming “The Protester” as its Person of the Year – and argued its editors should have chosen Rhode Island’s treasurer instead.

“Her brand of leadership is exactly what the U.S. needs,” the Grand Forks Herald declared in an editorial Tuesday. The paper’s Tom Dennis wrote that Raimondo’s approach to tackling public-sector compensation is better than those of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, two Tea Party Republicans:

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Time dubs RI ‘the little state that could’ thanks to pension law

November 25th, 2011 at 12:31 pm by under Nesi's Notes

The Wall Street Journal isn’t the only national outlet praising Rhode Island’s pension overhaul this Black Friday.

The Dec. 5 edition of TIME magazine is online today, and one of its main features is a long article by David Von Drehle about the pension fight and Treasurer Gina Raimondo. Its headline is: “The Little State That Could.”

Von Drehle suggests public employees in Rhode Island “should never have believed in their pensions to begin with,” since “denial has been a state-sponsored pastime on the Narragansett for decades.” He then joins The New York Times’ Mary Williams Walsh with his own contribution to Raimondomania:

When the end of the fantasy came for Rhode Island – just as the end is nearing for broken pension systems in states and cities all across the country – the truth teller had her own ration of pain to bear. Gina Raimondo, a rookie politician who never got the memo about dodging tough issues, took one look at the cooked books and decided to take a stand.

Von Drehle was at the Statehouse on the evening of Nov. 17 as the General Assembly voted to approve the Raimondo-Chafee pension law, and sat next to me on a bench outside Raimondo’s office as we waited to interview her. A photographer had visited the state earlier.

Unlike Walsh, Von Drehle doesn’t make any major errors. He calls Central Falls a “town” twice (it’s a city) and describes its unfunded pension liability as $80 million (that includes retiree health). But he gets some of the nuance right, notably by zeroing in on House Speaker Gordon Fox as “perhaps the most powerful figure in state government.”

While Von Drehle’s prose will be a bit syrupy for local tastes, he also offers some nice details about the treasurer’s biography. One former classmate says her “incredibly earnest exterior masked an even more earnest interior.” This, though, may be my favorite anecdote:

Asked by a visitor to recommend the best place in Rhode Island for Italian food, Raimondo answers confidently, “My house.”


WSJ: ‘In Rhode Island, liberals take the lead on pension reform’

November 24th, 2011 at 8:28 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Once Governor Chafee signed the pension overhaul into law last Friday, it was only a matter of time before The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page published a piece ballyhooing the first-in-the-nation measure.

Turns out we didn’t have to wait long. The Review & Outlook section of Friday’s WSJ carries an unsigned editorial beneath an astonished-sounding headline (“A Democrat Bites Union Story”) with the subhead, “In Rhode Island, liberals take the lead on pension reform.”

“Rhode Island was founded by dissidents espousing freedom of conscience,” the editorial begins, “so perhaps it’s fitting that the state’s Democrats have bucked their labor allies and passed the most significant pension reform of the last decade.”

Here are the parts that will likely make other parts of the country take notice:

These reforms are far more comprehensive than those adopted or proposed in other states. …

[N]one have gone as far as Rhode Island and frozen benefits for current workers and shifted them to new plans. This is the most sustainable route, even if it may present legal challenges ….

Here’s the stunner: Unions denounced the reforms as radical and threatened to file suit, but 77 of the state’s 94 Democratic lawmakers still voted last week for the legislation with only minor amendments. Both Mr. Chafee and Ms. Raimondo deserve credit for explaining and defending the reforms to the public, which put pressure on lawmakers to go along.

Yes, America, there are courageous Democratic reformers.

To my knowledge, the WSJ is the first national editorial board to take notice of Rhode Island’s pension changes. There’s also been little reaction from intellectuals of other ideological stripes – the NYT editorial board, Matt Yglesias, Felix Salmon – and it would be interesting to hear what they think.

(photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)


Raimondomania hits Sunday NYT as paper lionizes treasurer

October 22nd, 2011 at 1:35 pm by under Nesi's Notes

It’s all about Gina.

Or at least The New York Times’ Sunday Business cover piece on Rhode Island’s finances sure is. The glowing 2,500-word profile of the state treasurer and her one-woman crusade to overhaul the state pension system never mentions Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s name, let alone those of the House speaker and Senate president.

Times reporter Mary Williams Walsh’s contribution to the rising tide of Raimondomania forges no new ground when it comes to Rhode Island’s intertwined public-finance crises, though she makes a good analogy between the state and General Motors, noting both strained their pension systems with rounds of layoffs.

Here’s Walsh’s thesis, in a nutshell:

All of this might seem small in the scheme of national affairs. After all, this is Little Rhody (population: 1,052,567). But the nightmare scenario is that Ms. Raimondo has seen the future of America, and it is Rhode Island. As Wall Street fixates on the financial disaster in Greece, a fiscal wreck is playing out right here. And the odds are that it won’t be the last. Before this is over, many Americans may be forced to rethink what government means at the state and local level.

The Times piece includes a few minor points worth correcting for the sake of the historical record:

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Raimondo and the RI pension crisis hit the Wall Street Journal

July 25th, 2011 at 9:12 am by under Nesi's Notes

The Wall Street Journal is out with its long-awaited article on Treasurer Gina Raimondo and her efforts to tackle the pension problem in Rhode Island. The headline: “Softer Approach on Pension Problems; Head of Rhode Island’s Fund Aims to Win Workers’ Support.”

I didn’t see anything in the story that should come as a surprise to those who’ve been following this story, but it is interesting to see Raimondo’s collaborative approach contrasted with those of anti-union warriors in other states like Chris Christie.

“In the private-equity world, everyone thinks: Get rid of pensions,” Raimondo told the paper. “I think there is a way to provide a defined-benefit plan that ultimately provides retirement security, but you are never going to get there if all you have is a polarized political debate. The very word ‘pension’ gets people excited, but this is math.”

The article also says Rhode Island’s pension fund isn’t the most underfunded in the country, at 48% of future liabilities; that honor goes to Illinois, at 45%.

Update: WRNI’s Ian Donnis informs me that the WSJ article’s author, Michael Corkery, is a former Projo reporter. Small world.

Update #2: At right, how the story looks in print.