Reality strikes again
December 7, 2011
For Democrats, Rhode Island looks like the place to be: The Governor is an Independent who quit the GOP for being too conservative. The Lieutenant Governor, the state’s Treasurer, both U.S. Senators and both members of the House of Representatives are Democrats, as are 94 of 113 state legislators.
Rhode Island last supported a Republican presidential candidate in the 49-state Reagan landslide of 1984.
But unfunded liability for government employee pensions has grown sevenfold in 16 years to $7 billion, or more than $6,600 for every man, woman and child in the state. This has turned out to be something Rhode Island’s elected Democrats feared even more than the prospect of getting crosswise with their union allies.
So this year the Independent Governor and Democrat Treasurer and 80-plus percent of the Legislature’s Democrats adopted a plan ending cost-of-living increases, boosting the retirement age from 62 to 67, and putting all government employees into a new defined-contribution pension plan.
The unions sued, contending the state has a contractual obligation to pay up under the old status quo.
A court agreeing with the unions’ argument wouldn’t be unprecedented, but look at the bigger picture: No state government has taken more drastic measures to rein in government employee benefits than Rhode Island but we aren’t hearing of its Democrats being driven from office.
Meanwhile Wisconsin’s Governor receives death threats for getting the state budget out of a $3.6 billion hole without layoffs, without increasing taxes and without taking away current retiree benefits. Clearly, there’s no favor a Republican like Scott Walker will be allowed to extend to government unions without having his hand slapped away.
If it weren’t for the “R” after his name, Democrats might be calling him a hero