May 26, 2009

1/4 to 1/3 of RI Legislators Linked to Local Government

Marc Comtois

Russell J. Moore at the Warwick Beacon reports:

A Beacon survey of the Rhode Island Government Owner’s Manual found that 30 of the legislature’s 113 members are either employed or retired from one of the state’s municipalities, or serve as business agents for a union that represents those employees. That means 26.5 percent of the legislators have careers tied into local government.

Those counted in the survey have careers ranging from teachers, social workers, police officers, firefighters, union business agents, to a town solicitor. Those numbers do not reflect the number of legislators who had spouses employed by local communities....Bill Felkner, of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute, a free-market think tank in Rhode Island, compiled his own statistics using the financial disclosure forms from 2007—the latest available.

In his analysis, Felkner found that during the 2007 legislative session, there were 42 legislators (37 percent of the House and Senate combined) that derived income from local governments. Those numbers did include spouses of the legislators, whereas the survey using the R.I. Government Owners Manual does not.

No one is really surprised. Hey, it's a "who you know" state. It's a nice perk to have an "in" somewhere. Especially when BC/BS and a pension come with it! Further:
Felkner said he’s skeptical the legislature will reform the pension plan to protect taxpayers, given the fact that so many of them receive, or are scheduled to receive one. After all, the union motto is ‘solidarity’, he points out.

“It just seems to me that there’s this mindset of people in government to not want to give anything up,” said Felkner.

“And let’s face it, technically they all have a conflict because as legislators they’re slated to receive a pension from the state.”

When the Supplemental Budget was passed last month, mayors and town managers throughout the state complained that they received few, if any, of the management tools necessary to give taxpayer’s relief.

Harriet Llyod, the Vice President of Communications for the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition (RISC), a civic group oriented towards ethics and fiscal reform, said it’s easy to see why. There is far too much public sector union control in the General Assembly, she said.

“The problem is insidious,” said Llyod. “And it’s even worse because it’s not just these individuals and their spouses in the legislature who are tied into local governments. It’s sons, daughters, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and cousins.”

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“And let’s face it, technically they all have a conflict because as legislators they’re slated to receive a pension from the state.”

1/4 to 1/3 is far from the majority.

Maybe I'm being picky, but the choice of words, subtle, but when constantly pounded home in editorials and talkshows
paints a picture of handouts. These pensions, for the most part anyway, are not received as gifts, they are paid for and earned.

Posted by: michael at May 26, 2009 4:30 PM

Over the past decade, lots of people bought very nice houses believing that over time they could make the payments needed to repay the loan. When they realized that wasn't the case, they declared bankruptcy to force reduction of their liability.

Over the past decade, at least some of those same people sitting as legislators in states around the USA voted in favor of very nice pension and health care benefits, believing that over time they could make the payments needed to fund the liability they had created. When they realized this wasn't the case....

Time will tell how the second story ends in RI.

Posted by: John at May 26, 2009 5:45 PM
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