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Just 1% of Retirees Sinks the Pension Deal

Monday, April 07, 2014

 

The 254 police votes - just 1.075 percent of the total eligible to vote, has sunk the pension compromise.

The arcane voting structure set up by the court gave each individual union the ability to sink the entire deal. The police union membership - the smallest group - with just 254 "No" votes stopped the agreement for more than 23,000 eligible.

“For over a year the Governor and Treasurer participated in good faith in court-ordered mediation leading up to the February 14 settlement agreement. This morning, in court, we learned the results of the first round of voting from the plaintiffs. The court has ordered all parties back into mediation. The state will continue to participate in this court-ordered mediation,” said Joy Fox of Gina Raimondo's office and Debbie Rich of Governor Chafee's office.

The pension reform battle has now raged for two years.  

Reported results by group are:

Teachers: 7,442 eligible, 2,320 ballots received: 31% vote to reject

Retirees: 6,840 eligible, 1,810 ballots received: 26% vote to reject

State: 5,045 eligible,1,697 ballots received: 34% vote to reject

Municipal: 3,261 eligible, 504 ballots received: 15% vote to reject

Fire: 619 eligible, 170 ballots received: 27% vote to reject

Police: 417 eligible, 254 ballots received: 61% vote to reject

 

Related Slideshow: Timeline - Rhode Island Pension Reform

GoLocalProv breaks down the sequence of events that have played out during Rhode Island's State Employee Pension Fund reform. 

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2005-2010

In the five years before Raimondo was elected, pension changes included a decrease in established retirement age from 65 to 62, increased eligibility to retire, and modified COLA adjustments.
 
Read the Senate Fiscal Office's Brief here.
 
(Photo: 401(k) 2013, Flickr)
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January 2009

Governor Don Carcieri makes pension reform a top priority in his emergency budget plan. His three-point plan included:

1. An established minimum retirment age of 59 for all state and municipal employees.

2. Elimination of cost-of-living increases.

3. Conversion of new hires into a 401(k) style plan.

 

See WPRI's coverage of Carcieri's proposal here.

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2009

Rhode Island increased mandatory employee contributions for new and current employees. New Mexico was the only other state to mandate current employees to increase their contributions. 

 

Read the NCSL report here

(Photo: FutUndBeidl, Flickr)

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2010

Rhode Island's state administered public employee pension system only held 48% of the assets to cover future payments to its emplyees.

"This system as designed today is fundamentally unsustainable, and it is in your best interest to fix it" - Gina Raimondo

 

Check out Wall Street Journal's coverage here.

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November 2010

Gina Raimondo defeats opponent Kernan King in the election for General Treasurer of Rhode Island using her platform to reform the structure of Rhode Island's public employee pension system. She received 201,625 votes, more than any other politician on the 2010 Rhode Island ballot. 

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April 2011

Raimondo leads effort to reduce the state’s assumed rate of return on pension investments from 8.25 to 7.5%.

Her proposal includes plans to suspend the Cost of Living Adjustment (which allows for raises corresponding with rates of inflation for retirees), changing the retirement age to match Social Security ages, and adding a defined contribution plan.

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May 2011

Raimondo releases “Truth in Numbers”, a report detailing the pension crisis and offering possible solutions. She continues to work to raise public support for her proposal.

"Decades of ignoring actuarial assumptions led to lower taxpayer & employee contributions being made into the system." - Gina Raimondo (Truth in Numbers)

 

Read GoLocalProv's analysis of the report here.

Read the Truth in Numbers report here

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October 2011

Governor Lincoln Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo present their pension reform legislation proposal before a joint session of the General Assembly.

“Our fundamental goal throughout this process has been to provide retirement security through reforms that are fair to the three main interested parties: retirees, current employees and the taxpayer…I join the General Treasurer in urging the General Assembly to take decisive action and adopt these reforms.”- Gov. Lincoln Chafee

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October 2011

Head of Rhode Island firefighters’ union accuses Raimondo of “cooking the books” to create a pension problem where one did not exist. Paul Valletta Jr. states that Raimondo raised Rhode Islanders’ assumed mortality rate to increase liability to the state, using data from 1994 instead of updated information from 2008, and lowered the anticipated rate of return on state investments.

“You’re going after the retirees! In this economic time, how could you possibly take a pension away?” Paul Valletta Jr (Head of RI Firefighters' Union)

Read more from the firefighters' battle with Raimondo here.

Check out the New York Times' take on RI's  pension crisis here.

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November 17, 2011

The Rhode Island Retirement Security Act (RIRSA) is enacted by the General Assembly with bipartisan support in both chambers. RIRSA’s passing is slated to reduce the unfunded liability of RI’s pension system and increase its funding status by $3 billion and 60% respectively, level contributions to the pension system by taxpayers, save municipalities $100 million through lessened contributions to teacher and MERS pension systems, and lower the cost of borrowing.

 

Read more from GoLocalProv here.

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November 18, 2011

Governor Lincoln Chafee signs RIRSA into law. According to a December 2011 Brown University poll, 60% of Rhode Island residents support the reform. Following its enactment, Raimondo holds regional sessions to educate public employees on the effects of the legislation on their retirement benefits.

 

Read about how Rhode Islanders react to RIRSA here.

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January 2012

Raimondo hosts local workshops to explain the pension reforms across Rhode Island. She also receives national attention for her contributions to the state’s pension reforms.  The reforms are given praise and many believe Rhode Island will serve as a template for other States’ future pension reforms.

 

Read about the pension workshop here.

Read Raimondo's feature in Institutional Investor here

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March - April 2012

Raimondo opposes Governor Chafee’s proposal to cut pension-funded deposits. She continued to provide workshops on the pension reforms.

“The present law is sound fiscal policy and should remain unchanged.” -George Nee (Rhode Island AFL-CIO President)
 
 
See WPRI's coverage of Chafee's attempt to cut pension fund deposits here.
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December 5, 2012

Raimondo publicly opposes Governor Chafee’s meetings with union leaders in an effort to avoid judicial rulings on the pension reform package.  In response, Chafee issues a statement supporting the negotiations.

 

Read more about Raimondo's opposition here.

Read about Chafee's statement http://www.golocalprov.com/news/new-chafee-issues-statement-supporting-pension-negotiations/">here

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March 2013

Led by the Rhode Island State Association of Fire Fighters, unions protest the 2011 pension reform outside of the Omni Providence where Governor Lincoln Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo conduct a national conference of bond investors.

 

Read about Raimondo's discussion of distressed municipalities here

Prev Next

April 2013

The pension plan comes under increased scrutiny as a result of the involvement of hedge funds and private equity firms. Reports show that $200 million of the state pension fund was lost in 2012.

"In short, impressive educational credentials and limited knowledge of investment industry realities made Raimondo ideally suited to champion private equity’s public pension money grab." - Ted Seidle (Forbes)

 

Read GoLocalProv's coverage of the State Pension Fund's losses here

Read Ted Seidle's criticism of Raimondo in Forbes.

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June 2013

Reports show that the State’s retirement system increased in 2013 by $20 million despite the reforms being put into effect the previous year.

 

Read GoLocalProv's investigation into the rising pension costs here.

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September 2013

Matt Taibbi publishes an article in Rolling Stone detailing Raimondo’s use of hedge funds as a questionably ethical tool to aid with pension reform. 

Read Taibbi's article in Rolling Stone.

Read GoLocalProv's response to Taibbi here.

Prev Next

October 2013

As Raimondo eyes the role of Governor of Rhode Island in 2014, more behind-the-curtain information about the 2011 pension reform comes to light.

 

Read more from GoLocalProv about the players in the pension battle here.

 
 

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Comments:

What is truly remarkable is that despite the no only vote (a significant percentage people do not respond to surveys of any kind); misdirected mail from "organization" lists that were not updated; and no effort to capture undeliverable mail and remove it from balloting, this mediation proposal was still defeated. If this had been a yes or no vote using good mailing lists, I predict at least five out of six groups would have defeated the measure. The only one crying about the loss is the unions and Raimondo. Listen closely. You'll hear the cheering and shouts of thanks, police. Bring it to court.

Comment #1 by Fruma Efreom on 2014 04 07

Trial time....let's go for it

Comment #2 by michael riley on 2014 04 07

Trial time....let's go for it

Comment #3 by michael riley on 2014 04 07

Only in RI would the rules of the game be changed once the pre-selected outcome did not come to pass, despite the rigging of the rules in the first place to make that favored outcome win.

Given the rules of the game, only the police or fire unions could sink the proposal so surprising the powers that be did not work those groups harder. Now it should go to court.

What will more "negotiations" achieve -- there is no give or take in any negotiations -- it is merely sweeten the pot more or rig the next round of voting even more.

Comment #4 by Prof Steve on 2014 04 07

Fruma Efreom -

Agree. Thank you for stating the facts. And thank you, police officers for standing up for the good of many.

Comment #5 by paul zecchino on 2014 04 08

State tried to rig the voting with no response as a yes, cops didn't let the robbers get away with it.
On the other side, it is a dark day in RI, again. The pensions are not going to be sustainable no matter how it comes out in court. Either way I see RI going Detroit because our unionized Democratic ways have always been the way in RI.

Comment #6 by Gary Arnold on 2014 04 08

Why would any vote to approve the changes? They were promised the colas and gave up raises over years to maintain pension benefits. The state is going back on the bargain. The retirees are especially harmed. Why would they agree? They may win. Better than a fifty fifty shot. If they lose they'll get what the state is proposing. There's no downside to fighting it out.

Comment #7 by Dave Barry on 2014 04 08

Reported results by group are:

Teachers: 7,442 eligible, 2,320 ballots received: 31% vote to reject

Retirees: 6,840 eligible, 1,810 ballots received: 26% vote to reject

State: 5,045 eligible,1,697 ballots received: 34% vote to reject

Municipal: 3,261 eligible, 504 ballots received: 15% vote to reject

Fire: 619 eligible, 170 ballots received: 27% vote to reject

Police: 417 eligible, 254 ballots received: 61% vote to reject

The votes you report and their % don't make any sense. In each case, the ballots received are the same % as the number of ballots which you say were votes to reject. That means that every vote which was received was a NO vote. Impossible. For instance 2329 ballots received from teachers, out of a possible 7442 eligible means 31% of the teachers returned a ballot. Yet you report that 31% voted to reject. So not one teacher voted to approve? The table must be mislabeled.

Comment #8 by Kevin McCarthy on 2014 04 08

Dave Barry, You nailed it. There is no downside to fighting it. The 6% the plaintiffs gained seems like an insult. I disagree with you however in regards to the odds of the plaintiffs prevailing in court. My GUESS is that throughout the mediation the plaintiffs mediators began to believe that they will lose in court and get nothing. When you have little leverage you take the best deal you can get.

Congratulations to the police.

Comment #9 by Redd Ratt on 2014 04 08

Kevin McCarthy: Every vote not cast was counted as a yes vote. Only votes received as no were counted as rejecting the mediation. Many people didn't respond to the ballot because they didn't understand the issue or just threw it away without opening it or didn't send it out by the correct date. Some were intimidated because ballots were numbered and they were afraid the union would know who voted against them. I suspect that because of a non-attempt to update mailing lists, many, many ballots (perhaps 40% or more) were never delivered. All these ballots that weren't delivered counted as supporting the negotiation. Thank you for your concern.

Comment #10 by Fruma Efreom on 2014 04 08

The entire concept that unreturned ballots would be considered a Yes vote for the compromise is beyond ludicrous. Whoever came up with that idea is a flaming fool.

While I respect the unions' right to approve/disprove the proposed plan, I'm not certain this will turn out as they expect. That being said, it appears they can do no worse than they are now if in fact the pension reforms are upheld. Waiting to see what they next act is in this melodrama.

Comment #11 by Walter Miller on 2014 04 08

This state, and all it's unions, are a complete joke.
The joke is on the taxpayers.
This state shouldn't even be a state. I'm shocked that the federal government hasn't dissolved RI for all of it's corrupt and ineptness.
With each article that is written on this website, I get more and more disgusted.

Comment #12 by pearl fanch on 2014 04 10




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