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When 94 percent of Rhode Islanders agree on anything, the issue demands scrutiny. In this case, last week’s poll on PBN.com asked whether the state’s political leaders should wait until fiscal 2013 to comprehensively reform public-employee pensions.
The vast majority said “No,” demanding that the governor and the General Assembly fix the problem underlying the state’s structural budget deficit now, not later. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to detect any progress on the issue, with some political leaders asking instead for a special session in the fall to deal with the issue for next year’s budget cycle.
We could not disagree more. Instead of spending time on a number of issues, including civil union legislation – which should have been passed months ago –the governor, the legislature and others (including General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo) should be meeting around the clock to deal with the issue for this budget cycle. It’s not like the fiscal 2012 budget is a done deal.
The deficit facing the state in the coming year started at $331 million or so. But it was nearly doubled when in May the State Retirement Board changed the investment return assumptions for public employees, thus jumping the amount that taxpayers should put into the kitty by $266 million.
There is less than a month left in this legislative session. A budget for the next year must be passed, and it would be a massive disservice to the people of Rhode Island if it does not include significant changes to the state’s structural obligations. •