Over the next few weeks state legislators will hear the fears and threats from union leaders insistent on trying to ensure their members lose as little as possible in the drive to overhaul the state’s bloated pension system.
They’ll also hear from municipal leaders who wish the proposal unveiled last week did more to help them curb rising benefit costs.
While all voices must be heard in the debate over the reform plan offered by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, the fiscal threat is so daunting that there is really only one side on this issue.
Pension reform must happen now. Everyone, including unions, needs to get on board or face financial consequences far greater than the loss of cost-of-living increases or a later retirement.
The first priority is fixing the biggest problem, the state pension system. A stable economic environment at the state level encourages business expansion and makes local communities more attractive to new employers.
The bill also requires cities and towns with underfunded plans to come up with solutions by April to restore solvency. While a good step, it can’t be allowed to get in the way of overhauling the state system this year.
Failure to do so will not only lead to more painful cuts in annual state funding for programs that serve local communities. It will also reaffirm the notion that Rhode Island is a state unable to get its fiscal house in order – and by extension unfit to invest in. •