It’s striking the difference in how efforts to cut public sector pension benefits are playing out in Providence compared to the state level – as municipal retirees are agreeing to a compromise in the Capital City, state retirees are gearing up for a legal fight in court.
About 80 percent of Providence retirees voted in favor of a pension deal with Mayor Angel Taveras earlier this week. Meanwhile Bob Walsh, head of the NEARI, a local teachers’ union whose members are in the state system, was calling the Rhode Island’s reform efforts “a profoundly poorly-thought out solution,” to WPRI and penning op/eds on RI Future.
In part, it’s a telling testament to the different styles employed by those who led the efforts.
Providence Mayor Angel Taveras was understated yet adamant as he brought his ask to the table. Treasurer Gina Raimondo, on the other hand, went on more of a whistle-stop rally-for-reform tour of the state last year talking about truth in numbers more than compromise.
Of course, it’s also, in part, a telling testament to the need for reform – which explains a lot about the two different tacks too.
In Providence, the city was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, and had made some pretty exorbitant post-employment promises to city staff over the years. At the state level, the only danger was staving off potentially-dismal future scenarios and the danger of paying for the government we already created.
To that end, it is little surprise that Taveras hasn’t achieved the kind of stardom as did Gina. Taveras merely responded to a crisis; Gina created one and then solved it by saving taxpayers money at the expense of public sector unions – of course such actions would win the praise of the ultra-conservative Manhattan Institute and ALEC, which in a recent report called RI’s pension cutting efforts a model for the rest of the country to follow.
On the other hand, Providence’s pension reform savings are already all-but in the bank. On the state-level, any savings to be had still rest in the hands of a judge.
Either way, expect to see many more comparisons between pension reform efforts between the city and state … in fact, at this early date at least, I’d bet it will be the basis for the 2014 Democratic primary campaign for governor between Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras.