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Tea Party Lines Up Behind Treasurer Raimondo on Pension Reform

Thursday, January 03, 2013

 

Progressive Democrats may be unhappy with General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, but the state’s leading Tea Party group says it stands behind the Democrat who helped craft the state’s landmark pension reform package.

In an e-mail sent to supporters two weeks ago, the Ocean State Tea Party in Action criticized Governor Lincoln Chafee for changing his stance on pension reform and praised both Raimondo and House Speaker Gordon Fox for moving the overhaul forward.

“The OSTPA will be watching closely for the taxpayers,” the e-mail stated. “We will support Treasurer Raimondo as she stands ready to defend her actions to try to save the state of RI while looking out for the best interest of all taxpayers.”

Chafee signed the pension reform bill into law in late 2011 and then advocated for the General Assembly to pass a bill that would allow municipalities to address their pension woes throughout 2012, but that effort fell flat. Last month, Chafee called on the state and the unions to sit down at the bargaining table and negotiate a settlement to a lawsuit filed by the unions that would overturn the pension law.

Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter has since ordered both sides into mediation. While Raimondo has indicated she would like to see the process unfold in court, she has also said the state is willing to negotiate in good faith.

"I have great respect for the judicial system and it is important to let this process unfold in an orderly and transparent way,” she said last month.. “We owe that to the people of Rhode Island and to our public employees. We continue to believe the state has a very strong case and a terrific legal team. As I have consistently said, we will participate in court-ordered mediation in good faith."

The pension reform package cuts the state’s unfunded pension liability by $3 billion and is expected to save taxpayers nearly $300 million by this year. It also enrolls public employees in a 401k-style hybrid plan, freezes cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs) and raises the retirement age for many union workers. The outcome of the suit could play a role in how states all over the country attempt to address massive unfunded pension liabilities.

The Tea Party said that Raimondo and Fox showed “true leadership” in supporting pension reform.

“We support the courage of Treasurer Raimondo and Speaker Fox, not only for passing the pension reform legislation, but also for the wisdom to remain steadfast in what they believe is the correct, legal remedy for the state’s significant public pension problem,” the e-mail stated. “This is the mark of true leadership.”

 

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