February 7th, 2012 at 1:37 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
From Smith Hill to Providence and Pawtucket, government lawyers have been batting zero in their efforts to convince Rhode Island judges to uphold changes to public-sector workers’ retirement benefits.
That’s why the four state leaders who pushed through the new pension law should start formal negotiations with union leaders on an alternative overhaul of the system before they lose in court, according to Bob Walsh of the National Education Association Rhode Island.
“The legislative victory that the folks who supported changes in the pension system achieved is going to be short-lived – because it was illegal,” Walsh told WPRI.com on Tuesday. He suggested state leaders should appoint a neutral mediator such as former R.I. Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Williams to start talks between the two sides.
The unions haven’t filed an injunction to block the new law from taking effect because it won’t impact active workers until July 1 or retirees until Jan. 1, when they miss their first cost-of-living adjustment, Walsh said. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter already gave the unions a first-round victory last fall in an existing suit challenging earlier pension cutbacks.
October 23rd, 2011 at 6:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes
Raimondo and the reps last month
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Treasurer Gina Raimondo is warning state lawmakers they’re likely to be defeated in next year’s election if they vote against her pension overhaul plan as she calls on organized labor to drop its opposition to the proposal.
“If you don’t vote for pension reform you have to go to your constituents and explain why you voted for property tax increases, state income tax increases, a lack of funding for public education,” Raimondo told WPRI.com on Friday during a 40-minute interview in her first-floor Statehouse office. “That’s what will happen.”
Woonsocket City Council President John Ward, who also works as Lincoln’s finance director, warned at a forum Friday that “Lincoln will be extremely inconvenienced” but Woonsocket “will be devastated” if their pension costs soar because the Raimondo-Chafee bill doesn’t pass.
Raimondo cited Ward to back up her warning to lawmakers. “A legislator who votes against this has to explain to their constituents why they voted to devastate certain communities in Rhode Island,” she said, adding that she thinks the pension bill is “politically popular.”
‘They just don’t like this one’
Members of the General Assembly aren’t the only ones in the treasurer’s crosshairs. She also suggested labor leaders are being disingenuous with their rank and file.
October 12th, 2011 at 6:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes
Rhode Island taxpayers continue to pick up a much larger share of the cost of pensions for judges and state police officers than they do for the rest of the state work force or teachers.
All the employees contribute a similar portion of their wages to the state pension fund: 8.75% of pay for state workers, judges and troopers, and 9.5% of pay for teachers. But the additional contribution that taxpayers have to make on top of that to fully fund each pension varies widely.
New teachers have the least lucrative deal. The pension contributions they make are enough to cover 80% of the future of cost their pensions, according to state actuaries Gabriel Roeder Smith & Co. State employees’ contributions pay for nearly as much as their educator colleagues, covering at 77% of the future cost.
It’s a different story for state police and judges.
The pension contributions a newly hired trooper makes from his paycheck are enough to cover just 29% of the pension he will eventually receive, Gabriel Roeder Smith’s projections show, leaving taxpayers to shoulder more than two-thirds of the cost.
And judges’ pension contributions are enough to cover only 35% of the pensions they will get after retirement, according to the projections.
October 11th, 2011 at 6:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes
National Education Association Rhode Island chief Bob Walsh’s Projo op-ed about labor’s stance on pension reform is the clearest sign yet that at least some union leaders think digging in their heels and resisting any changes isn’t the best strategy to take over the next few weeks.
After some throat-clearing about Ed Achorn and the death of newspapers, Walsh moves to the matter at hand, describing organized labor as “part of the solution” to the state’s pension funding problem. Let’s take a close look at the canny union chief’s words – which he admits don’t necessarily reflect what other labor leaders think – and what that may mean for pension reform (as well as a potential Chafee vs. Raimondo race in 2014).
First, there’s the legal picture – Walsh makes repeated reference to Judge Taft-Carter’s recent decision finding retirees and vested workers have a contractual right to their pensions, a reminder that labor can (and likely will) return to the courts regardless of what the General Assembly does.
But he also notes it’s not clear whether retirees are best served by “a legally defensible hard line of no change” as opposed to “an attempt to mitigate damages by advocating for the least egregious of the potential options.” That’s a polite way of saying retirees may want to get the best deal they can from lawmakers, even if it means giving up benefits to which they’re legally entitled, rather than put all their eggs in a basket of litigation.