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

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)

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