By Katherine Gregg
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- While voicing her disappointment that a draft of the much-anticipated pension overhaul bill was leaked, state General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo on Friday seized the moment to tout the hundreds of millions of dollars in potential savings to state and local taxpayers, and a potential $3 billion reduction in the state's $7.3 billion in unfunded pension liability.
Raimondo said some pieces of the bill are still in negotiation. But if the final package is adopted in its entirely, she said it would not only spare state and local taxpayer from having to pay twice next year the $300 million or so they are paying this year for state employee and teacher pensions, but actually reduce the taxpayer tab for these public employee pensions.
In interviews with The Journal and WPRO radio, she said it would also save the city of Providence approximately $10 million, and Cranston "over $11 million'' in contributions the two cities would otherwise have to make for their public school teachers and, some municipal employees.
She said she would have more details when the final bill is delivered to the General Assembly during a special session on Tuesday.
But at this point, she said, it appears the proposal will knock $3 billion off the state's $7.3 billion in unfunded obligations to its current and future retirees.
The draft overhaul plan talks about "re-amortizing,'' which means stretching that debt out over a longer period of time -- 25 years, instead of the 18 years remaining on the state's current 30-year payment schedule. As a general rule, re-amortization saves money upfront, but costs more over time.
Asked in a follow-up interview with The Journal what the new 25-year payment schedule might cost or save, Raimondo said the numbers are not yet clear because that is one of the pieces "we are still working on.''
She said she had no quarrel with the accuracy of The Journal's reporting of the contents of the 202-page draft proposal, but she said several pieces are still in play.
She acknowledged, for example, that Governor Chafee's bid to include in the legislation a restructuring and solvency plan for locally controlled pension plans was one of the remaining sticking points.
The package obtained by The Journal included several stated goals, including the suspension of COLAs for retirees in these locally administered plans, moving all new employees in these community-run plans into the state-run Municipal Employees Retirement System after July 1, 2012, and a mechanism for withholding state aid from communities that do not make their required pension contributions.
But Raimondo said, "Everyone is waiting to see the governor's plan on that. He's had 10 months to work on that and I still haven't seen a plan.''
"To be clear, as the treasurer I have no constitutional or other jurisdiction over the non-MERS [plans]....and its a very important point to get across: the non-MERS plans are individually collectively bargained for plans. They are not set out in statute and they [raise] a completely different set of legal issues and financial issuers.
"At this point I have yet to see from the governor a legal analysis, an actuarial analysis or a financial analysis or a complete plan,'' Raimondo said. "So I think we have broad agreement there's a problem, but I have yet to see a thoughtful solution.''
wrote, Here's a plan for you...figure out how much has been stolen. Name the thieves. Put them in jail. Replace the money that was stolen with...
wrote, What would save taxpayers millions is to take away the free healthcare for life that the General assembly gets for their part time job. stop...
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By John E. Mulligan
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Rep. David N. Cicilline raised about $202,000 for his reelection fund during the reporting period that ended Sept. 30, his campaign announced Thursday.
The Rhode Island Democrat's campaign offered no cash-on-hand figure in its news release. Republican candidate Brendan Doherty has reported having about $270,000 in the bank on Sept. 30. Republican candidate John Loughlin reported raising almost $23,400 but his campaign gave no cash balance in its statement.
Full reports on the quarter's congressional campaign fundraising at due at the Federal Election Commission by midnight Saturday.
By Philip Marcelo and Katherine Gregg
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Governor Chafee on Thursday defended the state Board of Governor's decision to make undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition rates at Rhode Island's public colleges, calling some lawmakers' threats to repeal or modify the decision in next year's General Assembly session an "end around" to the process.
"In this case, I would argue that tuition decisions should be made in the Board of Governors; that's where they are always made and that's the best place for them to be made," he said. "[T]he legislature is the end around the process."
Chafee made the comments when asked, during an interview at the State House, what he thought of a survey of lawmakers conducted this month by the Journal on the issue of in-state tuition rates.
The survey found that an overwhelming number of the lawmakers who responded were opposed, with some promising to push legislation next year to reverse or modify the board's decision.
Chafee disagreed with the conclusion of the survey.
"I thought I saw mostly [non-responses]," he said. "If I were writing the story I would have said [in the] headline: "[House Speaker Gordon D. Fox] supports in-state tuition."
He said the new policy, which takes effect in September 2012, will help Rhode Island lower its unemployment rate, which is still among the highest in the nation.
"I understand that in difficult economic times, and we are in the most difficult economic times in my memory, people are angry and sometimes that gets vented in what I would call unnecessary directions," Chafee said. "This is a chance to educate our population. The lowest unemployment levels are where you have the highest number of educated people. This is all in the interest of improving our economy. Educated populations will lead to lower unemployment."
Asked how in-state tuition for students who cannot be hired legally helps to reduce unemployment, the governor said: "It's an incentive to finish high school if you know you might get in-state tuition. Ultimately, I am sure many of these undocumented students will become citizens somehow. That's what happens.''
Chafee also said he is still considering creating a state-issued driving license or permit for illegal immigrants, much as the State of Utah has done recently.
"I always like to be associated with leaders that are doing good things for their community," he said. "Seeing what Utah has [been] doing on this issue to me is worthy of instruction."
The governor added that the state has a lot of other issues of higher priority right now, including pension reform, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation and "making sure Central Falls is on the right track.''
On Channel 12's Newsmakers last Sunday, Chafee had left the impression that his interest in creating a driving license or permit for illegal immigrants had been an off-the-cuff remark.
wrote, How can a “new policy” ever take effect, on any date whatsoever when it is not within the power of the board to legislate anything?...
wrote, Chafee should be arrested for aiding and abetting CRIMINALS. Illegal aliens are breaking federal laws, they don't belong here and they don't deserve to be...
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The Rhode Island Statewide Coalition, an advocacy group favoring limited taxation and fiscally conservative government, is asking Rhode Islanders to call state General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed to urge them to include independent municipal pension plans in whatever legislation is proposed to fix state-run government-worker pension plans.
"Ask that the Senate President and the Treasurer address and fix the municipal pension problems during the special session along with the state pensions," the coalition said in an e-mail Thursday. "We cannot afford to ignore the municipal pension issue -- it needs to be fixed via legislative action as well."
Raimondo has questioned whether the legislature can touch the municipal-run plans, which were established by contract with unionized employees. State-run pensions were established by state law. Governor Chafee has said he favors including the municipal-run plans.
Rhode Island faces a $9.4 billion shortfall between the cost of pension benefits already earned by government workers and retirees and the the money set aside to pay for them. That breaks down to $7.3 billion in the state-run plans and $2.0 billion in municipal run plans.
By John E. Mulligan
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's campaign has announced that it raised more than $550,000 in the reporting period that ended Sept. 30, leaving the Rhode Island Democrat with a cash balance of almost $2.6 million.
The GOP candidate for the job, Barry Hinckley, reported having about $148,000 in the bank after raising $163,000 during the third quarter of the year.
WASHINGTON -- The John Loughlin for Congress campaign raised $23,377 during the quarter that ended Sept. 30, according to spokesman Michael Napolitano.
Loughlin, a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District, is serving as an army reserve officer in Iraq until December.
Napolitano said the fundraising for the quarter included $9,562 collected on Loughlin's behalf at a Sept. 25 fundraiser.
Loughlin reported a campaign balance of $203 as of June 30. The campaign did not issue a figure for cash on hand Sept. 30.
The rival Republican candidate, Brendan Doherty, reported a balance of more than $270,000 as of Sept. 30.
wrote, You are definitly in new territory for a campaign. I don't ever recall a campaign running without the candidate particpating or a lack of an...
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By TATIANA PINA
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The "Values Voter" bus made a stop in Rhode Island on its way from New Hampshire to Ohio so speakers could talk about the importance of protecting religious liberties.
Among the visitors on the bus was Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group that promotes what it considers to be family values. Perkins who walked out of a long colorful bus that serves as a mobile office said the American family must be preserved an allowed to preserve its religious freedoms.
"If we want to change the size and scope of government first strengthen the American family. We do that by encouraging family formation without policy and protecting the right of faith in the community and the right to be aggressively involved in local community."
The event drew about 20 people, including local ministers, politicians and residents.
Plante said he invited the bus organizers to draw attention to the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union and its efforts to repeal the passage of the civil unions.
In a 22-page report, the ACLU said that gay and lesbian couples have not been rushing to obtain civil union status under Rhode Island's new law and called it a fiasco. The agency is pushing to repeal the "Corvese amendment," a broad religious exemption that was added on the House floor. The report said that repeal would keep the law from undermining any statutory protections that gay and lesbian couples already have and may encourage more to apply for licenses.
The ACLU also will also push for same-sex marriage and legislation of same-sex divorce, which Plante said is an impingement on the religious liberties of community members.
"Rhode Islanders need to understand that their faith is still under attack today," Plante said before the gathering.
Providence Journal photo / Mary Murphy
The initial version of this report was posted at 1:24 p.m.
wrote, Craig, It is indeed true: we are ALL values voters. But why is it necessary to identify those that hold to different values than your...
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WASHINGTON -- A Rhode Island official told a panel at the National Defense University Wednesday about the state's efforts to train prospective workers in the field of cybersecurity.
Theresa Murray of the R.I. Emergency Management Agency attended a workshop at the National Defense University, accompanied by U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin. She described how various military, educational and pubic safety organizations are collaborating, as she put it in draft remarks, "To recruit and train unemployed and under-employed people and provide them with the skills and credentials which are necessary to enter the workforce as cybersecurity professionals."
A goal, said Murray, is "to develop a sustainable pipeline of high school and college students who enter the academic path" to employment in the field.
Langevin told the panel, "Our most important resource in cyberspace will be the people that operate it, and ultimately, defend it. More than inventing new technology, our most important effort today should be finding and training the right people."
The Rhode Island Democrat said that, "While the numbers may have changed over the past several years, the growth in demand continues to far outnumber the personnel capable of protecting our networks."
WASHINGTON -- "Americans Elect," a new organization that offers an alternative to the traditional partisan process of nominating presidential candidates, plans an introductory meeting in Providence Thursday.
The 7 p.m. gathering at 67 George St., is a chance "for those fed-up with the standard two-party system to discover ways to foster political change and engage others in the community," according to a news release from Americans Elect.
The organization proposes to select presidential nominees through a "virtual" convention on the Internet next summer.
By Katherine Gregg
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- EngageRI, a privately financed advocacy group for pension reform, has hired former House Majority Whip Christopher Boyle as its $30,000 lobbyist.
The hiring surfaced in a filing Friday with the Rhode Island secretary of state's office. Boyle ascended to the third-highest ranked leadership position in the House in 1988, when Joseph DeAngelis succeeded Matthew Smith as House speaker.
Boyle's other lobbying clients include Newport Grand, Blue Cross & Blue Shield, the Community Provider Network of RI, GeneralMotors, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and PriMedia.
EngageRI bills itself as "a group of concerned Rhode Islanders who understand that comprehensive pension reform is the key to creating jobs, sustaining our state's quality of life and ensuring a bright future for our citizens," according to a flier being distributed in the business community and obtained by The Providence Journal.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Rhode Islanders who want to watch the 8 p.m. Republican presidential debate over the air will have to do it at the little-known channel Bloomberg TV.
The debate, at Dartmouth College, is sponsored by Bloomberg, The Washington Post, and WBIN-TV. Its central theme will be the economy and jobs. A three-person panel of questioners will be led by PBS's Charlie Rose.
According to Bloomberg's "Channel Finder," the channel is available from the following providers at these channels:
By Katherine Gregg
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- As a former U.S. Senator, Governor Chafee is eligible to receive a federal pension of $1,478 per month - $17,736 a year - when he turns 62.
That was the answer that his communications director Christine Hunsinger provided Tuesday, in response to questions about the 58-year-old Chafee's own pension prospects.
In February 2009, the former Warwick mayor and city-councilman withdrew his $44,204 in payroll contributions to the Warwick pension system, according to Mayor Scott Avedisian. That included $4,966 in interest.
During his days in the U.S. Senate, Chafee was enrolled in what he has described as a "hybrid'' plan that included both a defined-benefit and a 401(k)-style opportunity for federal employees to set money aside for retirement.
Details of his prospective pension, including the worth of each year he served in the Senate towards his pension, were not immediately available, but Hunsinger said: "The 401(k) portion he transferred when he separated from federal service.''