RI retiree hits Raimondo, pension law on panel in Washington

Dolores Bresette

A veteran union activist traveled to Washington on Thursday to slam Treasurer Gina Raimondo and other Rhode Island leaders for taking away the annual cost-of-living adjustment to her pension.

“I’m angry. Yes, I am angry,” Dolores Bresette, a 37-year state employee who is now retired, said during a panel with other officials and economist Dean Baker at the National Press Club. “I’m angry that something like this could happen after I worked all of these years and planned for my future.”

Bresette retired on Sept. 27, 2008, and received $2,305.54 a month as of June 30, records show. “My pension is my life savings,” she said. “The politicians in Rhode Island simply took it from me. On the news, I saw them celebrating. It’s upsetting that they could do this to us. They don’t see us as people. They see us as a number.”

North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell, who spoke before Bresette, countered that her state does not grant automatic COLAs and sets its pension fund’s investment return forecast at 7.25%, still lower than Rhode Island’s revised 7.5%. North Carolina has made its full pension contribution in 69 of the past 70 years, Cowell said.

“We have these conservative assumptions and decisions,” she said. “We’ve also just met our obligations.”

Rhode Island’s new pension law suspends COLAs until the state system is 80% funded, although interim increases may be granted every five years; before lawmakers began changing the system in 2005, 3% COLAs were automatically given annually.

Baker – who last year called Raimondo’s proposal for Rhode Island “fairly harsh” – argued the nation’s real problem is a private-sector retirement crisis, as most baby boomers approach the end of their working lives with limited assets to sustain them as they age.

As for public pensions, Baker called North Carolina’s 7.25% return forecast “very conservative” considering the current price-to-earnings ratio in the stock market is about 13 or 14. By contrast, he said, most states should have been below 8% back in 2000 when the price earnings ratio topped 30.

“If we assume long-term economic growth projections are right, you’re really hard-pressed to believe you won’t get something close to 8%,” Baker said, presenting his side of a heated debate nationally. While a few states have “cases of mismanagement,” most public pension shortfalls “are manageable,” he said.

Bresette recalled seeing Raimondo at the State House last year and telling her, “I’m very disappointed in you.”

“I told her she’s trying to take my future away from me – I planned for this, and now you want to take the cost-of-living away,” Bresette said. “Inflation is going to go up. How am I going to be able to afford the necessities of life? The food, the bread, the gasoline and so forth?”

Raimondo “turned around and said, ‘I’m sorry,'” Bresette said. “I said, ‘You may be sorry, but that just does not help me. That will not help my future that is here today.’ I did my part, but Rhode Island politicians failed to do theirs.”

23 thoughts on “RI retiree hits Raimondo, pension law on panel in Washington

  1. Where did Baker get his degree from the Union Fantasy Accounting Program? We have economic downturns every 5-10 years and the last one took nearly a 50% chunk of investments.

  2. A person who cannot live on $2300.00 a month must lead a very extra extravagant lifestyle.Why should we the taxpayers have to work harder and longer and do without to satisfy your greed.

    • 2,300 is extravagant??? Mortgage 1,400 Heat(oil) monthly plan 350 Electric 100 Cell phone 150 Cable/internet 150. That leaves 150 for food, gas, and “extravagance”.

      • The idea is to work long enough to own your home but then of course people who retiree in their early 50’s aren’t working long enough.

      • they can get rid of the cable, refinance their house.don’t waste electric.

        they need to change their lifestyle just like millions of people in the private sector do.


        the population is getting wise to the ones that the unions have in their pocket.

        THANK YOU GINA RAIMONDO !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Too bad most Rhode Island public sector employees don’t know how a real COLA works. It is usually tied to the Consumer Price Index. When an employee or retiree gets 3% per year when the inflation rate has been below 1% for 20 of the last 25 years there is a problem. It is not keeping up with inflation, it is exceeding inflation. No wonder Rhode Island is so broke.

  4. Congratulations to ms. Bessette for having the courage to stand up for all retirees that were robbed. As she stated, the COLA was a condition of employment and more importantly it is a contract that the legislators followed the lead of the treasurer to renege on. A contract is a contract. When you negotiate a loan, the banks don!t renege on the set rate. It is a contract just as the COLA is a contract . It has nothing to do with the compound factor or percentage.

  5. I’m glad Ms. Bessette spoke up. As for all of you who think this is wonderful, suppose this were your Social Security. I’m sure Raimondo would solve that problem exactly the same way. Do you want grandma moving in with you and sleeping in your basement? People planned on the COLAs because it was state law for close to 30 years — during virtually all their working careers. If you think state employees and teachers are overpaid, the time to negotiate that is during contracts not after people are retired. Do people realize that the average age of those immediately impacted is probably 75 years old or older? As far as Raimondo being sorry, that’s crocodile tears. She is in glee, she is delighted, she’s lovin’ it and taking in all her awards and dreaming of bigger things to come. She sent out a letter to retirees telling them they could look on a website to see how their benefits are affected — no regrets. Like they’re nothing and nobody. Retirees don’t have a union, but they vote and all you corporations and others who signed on and led EngageRI because you were looking for your own handout had better watch out. Your businesses depending on the very people you just shafted — not to mention what it says about you as human beings.

  6. i am sooo tired of state employees talking as if they have to eat out a dumpster if there is a pension change !!
    the retirees should stop whining- we are sick of it !!
    don’t they get social security also ? generalstate employees and teachers
    should be separate from all emergency responders.
    the emergency responders should be well compensated,they may not return home !
    state services are horrible(no customer service skills ).
    teachers are ineffective !

    thank god for our first responders !


    she needs to stop beating a BROKE horse,where will the money come from ?
    so many people are out of work no taxes are coming into the state .

  8. ‘beating a BROKE horse’ The broke horse finished the year with a $180m surplus. All you teatards do your math instead of being lead around by a dog whistle.

  9. If Gina calls reform not touching judges, and state trooper pensions….Dolores Bresette you have one good argument….people are telling her to cut back refinance, and these judges and state troopers can yank in as much as 150.000 a yr pension. Nobody seems to care about that. And Gina has the nerve to tell her I’m sorry, for what not touching the bid wigs.

  10. Lynn you are totally right.Gina keep up the great work you do for the taxpayers.I know a lot of people out of work with no cash coming in.Whine on state worker

  11. She retired at age 57 and expects the state to care for her for the rest of her life? Try putting in another 10 years in the workforce then come talk to us.

  12. When will people understand…the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…meaning…PUBLIC EMPLOYEES NEED TO STOP AND UNDERSTAND… THE NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE OF RHODE ISLAND OUTWEIGH THE NEEDS OF THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEE!!

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