Gov. Lincoln Chafee says he is “deeply disappointed” in lawmakers’ revised version of the pension bill he co-authored because it does not address the 36 locally run pension plans.
In a statement, Chafee described the reworked legislation as “a substantial – but incomplete – step toward comprehensive pension reform.” But he did not threaten to veto the new version of the bill, and praised lawmakers and Treasurer Gina Raimondo for tackling “this complicated and difficult issue.”
“It is unfair and defies logic to continue to pay unaffordable COLAs to municipal retirees – many of whose systems are in far worse condition than the state – while asking retired state employees, teachers, and some municipal employees to forfeit their own COLAs,” the governor said.
The revised bill creates a commission to study the problem. Chafee said he will introduce a bill on the first day of the General Assembly’s session in January to do more to address the 36 locally run plans, 24 of which are classified as at risk of running out of money by the auditor general.
Raimondo issued her own statement praising House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed for their efforts and urging passage of the bill. But the treasurer warned additional changes “must be avoided” to ensure the legislation achieves the savings she’s targeted.
The joint finance committee began a hearing on the reworked legislation shortly before 6 p.m., nearly three hours after it had been scheduled to start.
So far, the losers appear to be Chafee, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and others who pushed to allow the locally run plans to suspend COLAs, a move opposed by Raimondo and Paiva Weed. And clearly the outcry over not suspending COLAs for the unfunded judges’ pensions made a big impact.
A few highlights from the briefing (the bill text isn’t available yet):
- cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) may be awarded every 5 years during freeze
- all employees except public-safety workers and judges go into the hybrid plan
- same funding calculation to end COLA suspension for judges and troopers as others
- part-timers will be able to get a pension; but based on 10 highest years to avoid “spiking”
- all active workers will get a retirement age between 59 and 67 based on how close they are now
- revised bill costs $27M more; but that doesn’t include some savings for troopers, judges
Much more to come, of course. Still-warm photocopies of the 122-page rewrite of the pension bill were given to reporters around 6:15. It’s available online as a PDF (the House version and the Senate version).
The best overview is the PowerPoint presentation the House and Senate fiscal advisors gave to the joint finance committee this evening. Here it is for your reading pleasure – just scroll through:
Update: A slide in the above presentation says all employees except public-safety workers would be going into a hybrid plan, which I thought included the judges; that’s incorrect. The judges will still get a traditional defined-benefit pension under the revised bill.
(photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)