February 9, 2008

Meet the Unions: A Sham Commission

Justin Katz

I don't suspect that it will take long for Anchor Rising readers to figure out what group isn't represented on the following list of folks on House Speaker Bill Murphy's pension study group:

According to the speaker’s office, the panel, when fully assembled, will include: Representatives Nicholas A. Mattiello, D-Cranston; Gregory J. Schadone, D-North Providence; Elaine A. Coderre, D-Pawtucket; Steven John Coaty, R-Newport; John J. Loughlin II, R-Tiverton; Peter L. Lewiss, D-Westerly; Mark Dingley, chief of staff to the state treasurer; state police Inspector Stephen Bannon; accountants Grafton “Cap” Willey of Tofias Rhode Island and Edward Sullivan of KPMG; George Nee, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO; J. Michael Downey, president Council 94, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees; Robert A. Walsh Jr., executive director of the National Education Association of Rhode Island; District Court Judge Elaine Bucci; Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline; Cumberland Mayor Daniel J. McKee; lawyer Jeffrey A. Mega from Hinkley, Allen & Snyder; and lawyer David C. Morganelli from Partridge, Snow and Hahn to represent the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.


One thing in particular concerns me: that Murphy put Coaty and Loughlin on the commission in order that they might be steamrolled behind closed doors, but still give the results the imprimatur of a bipartisan group.

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Saw that too and had the same reaction. An utter joke made even funnier when noting Tim Williamson is to chair this thing. If you put lipstick on a pig it's still a pig.

Posted by: Tim at February 9, 2008 8:30 AM

So besides throwing people through windows and drunkenly driving into cars in the parking lot, what is Tim there for again?

And who is representing ME, the taxpayer?

Posted by: Greg at February 9, 2008 8:40 AM

Does the percentage of Republicans on this group reflect the same percentage the voters sent to the House?

Posted by: phil at February 9, 2008 9:47 AM

Having the taxpayers insufficiently represented has made us the fourth highest taxed state and given us extremely generous social programs, phil, with an annual budget shortfall of $500,000,000 and a poorly performing state economy to show for it.

The General Assembly needs to go in a different direction on most matters to correct this. The new pension study commission certainly does not appear to do that.

P.S. As for steamrolling, having met Rep Loughlin and heard some of his public comments (referring to the new Capitol TV show as "Pravda", for example), they may be able to outvote him on this commission but they won't get him to keep quiet or to sing Kumbayah if the commission is coming to the wrong conclusions.

Posted by: Monique at February 9, 2008 12:31 PM

Here's a forecast: the Williamson brain trust, er, "pension study commission" ends up suggesting (1) current defined benefit plan is fully funded via a combination of (a) asset sales --bridges, lottery, etc. and (b) pension funding bonds issued by the state; (2)thereafter terminated -- i.e., funding will be adequate to pay out currently vested benefits; and (3) DB plan to be replaced by a defined contribution plan -- a 403b (like 401k for private sector employees) for current and new employees.

Beauty of this approach is that public sector union leadership that milked the system and bankrupted the state in the process gets theres and heads off to Florida, where they can golf and enjoy the spoils from looting RI tax free.

Doesn't matter that younger state and maybe municipal employees (at least some of whom will have to be cut in on this deal, or they'll scream bloody murder) will lose out -- too bad for them. And ditto for the Poverty Institute crowd -- they've served their purpose as willing accomplices, and played their designated role exceptionally well. No doubt former RI union politicos will have many laughs at their expense in the years ahead, as they watch them fight for what is left, and vent their inevitable rage after they eventually realize they've been played for fools.

This is what the end game looks like -- not pretty, but inevitable.

Only thing that could screw it up at this point is (a) the Feds -- everybody has lost track of how many grand juries there are these days; and/or (b) younger unionistas figuring out the end game, and/or (c) poverty advocates figuring it out and, if they do, being able to quickly redirect the well practiced outrage of their troops.

Good news for unionistas: Projo is so conflicted they'll never dig too deeply into the story.

Signposts to watch for: any mention of (a) asset sales to fund pension deficit and/or (b) sale of pension bonds. Even earlier sign: more people you don't recognize in very expensive suits walking around Smith Hill and/or Amtrak station heading back to NYC.

Posted by: John at February 9, 2008 5:58 PM

All the complaining might actually go somewhere if the people doing the brunt of the complaining got off their asses and keyboards and actually did something. Form your own union. Call it the Rhode Island Republican Party. Charge dues. Fund an ad campaign. Get members. (voters) Create your own special interest group and crush the unions.

Posted by: michael at February 10, 2008 10:47 AM

Workers and teachers who have put in YEARS of work and contributed thousands of dollars into the retirement system deserve a living wage when they retire. Believe me, they will not be wealthy and many will not have social security benefits or health care available to them. The state should have found ways to fully fund the pension system which was their legal obligation all along. You all need to get your facts right and stop buying into the fairy tale about how the evil unions have sucked up all your money. It just ain't so.

Posted by: Connie Z. at April 7, 2008 6:12 PM
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