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Plea to Gina Raimondo and David Boies: Sue Jerry Brown

A California Republican shares his esteem for reformers in Rhode Island who tell the truth and tackle pension obligations. They should inspire the same courage and legal challenges in California.

Unlikely yet true, National Review Columnist Michael Barone, a conservative's conservative, had some warm words for supermajority Democratic Rhode Island, where the governor, Independent Lincoln Chafee, was one of the most liberal Republicans in the US Senate before he lost his seat in 2006.

For a state which is so liberal, one wonders how Republicans can wake up in the morning without thinking about fleeing South for the winter never to return (although one should reject the snark which supposes them so recalcitrant that they cannot change). However, the Democratic leadership in the state has shown some amazing conservative diligence in turning around a government set to sink into Massachusetts Bay in the same manner that Greece is drowning in red ink in the Aegean.

The liberal mouth-piece "The New York Times" could fit in its headline nothing less than "The Little State With a Big Mess". The pension obligations of the Ocean State were the worst in the union, according to the report. Gina Raimondo, a Providence-native and Rhodes Scholar, won the election for General Treasurer. A staunch Democrat in a staunchly Democratic state, she could teach the Republican elites in this country a thing or two about courage and compassion. In townhall meetings throughout her home state, Raimondo explained to voters that the government cannot pay the enormous pension obligations to retired state workers without enacting cuts and reforms to current retirees along with new employees, who all too often bear the brunt of reforms.

Candidly, I believe that men and women in Rhode Island will be able to adapt in spite of the cuts which they have to endure to make sure that their little state does not sink into the Atlantic. There certainly is hope for this country when even the New York Times reports:

"Before this is over, many Americans may be forced to rethink what government means at the state and local level."

On paper at least, this appeal for limited government has been the Republican argument for decades, yet all too often when the grassroots wanted Washington to "mow down" the taxes and the spending, Washington power-brokers have spent as  much money as their Democratic colleagues, only on differing interests.

If the Providence public library system can partner with a non-profit in order to stay open, then perhaps a business climate which encourages investment with lower taxes, spending, and regulatory burdens could invite investors to partner with the struggling schools in the state. Recently, a dedicated teacher announced on YouTube that he was quitting his job as a second-grade teacher because of the hamstring standardized testing and overbearing rules which frustrate real teaching and real learning. President Obama has already issued waivers for "No Child Left Behind." Every Democrat, meaning almost everyone, in Rhode Island should jump at the chance for Rhode Island public education to waive one of the chief "legacies" of President George W. Bush and request the waiver, too.

Now on to Michael Barone's comments. Because the Rhode Island state pension is taking in a miserly yield and failing to cover costs, Democratic standard-bearer David Boies has filed a lawsuit to compel Rhode Island to fix the pension problems. Since there is no state contract firmly in place, Boies' legal challenges should face fewer challenges in court. Finally, a trial attorney is willing to go after the third-rail of public sector union-statehouse politics. Barone esteemed this approach most likely because of the aggressive seriousness of state leaders to prevent the state from bankruptcy. Otherwise, they would have to cut every statewide service just to service retiree pensions. Comparing "Little Rhody to Big Cali", Barone disdained the impoverished outcomes of other blue states like Illinois and California, where instead of major cuts the legislatures have raised taxes, with businesses fleeing, the state tax revenues plummeting, and pension obligations still outstanding.

As a California resident, I am writing as one who wishes that the Democrats in my state had the courage to do what Rhode Island General Treasurer Raimondo and her Democratic colleagues are doing: talking to voters, telling them the truth, and outlining a plan of concerted action and respect which will hurt everyone a little in order to save everyone a lot more. More specifically, Mr. Boies should not only maintain his suit against Rhode Island, but he should file a claim against Jerry Brown and the California supermajority, in which all too many of them have taken money from public sector union elites. No doubt they will do nothing about the looming bankruptcy for fear of threatening their political hegmony in Sacramento.

So in short, I write to Gina Raimondo: keep up the good work, and a plea to David Boies: sue California and Governor Jerry Brown. He's an 'old retread' who refuses to lead decisively toward reform and fiscal responsibility in my state, but he could certainly use the courage that Rhode Island leadership possesses.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Gary Morse December 28, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Mr Schaper, It might have been helpful if you debated pure numbers rather than ideology. The real numbers tell a different story. 1) Raising the retirement age of teachers had the effect of transferring those costs from the pension plan into local property taxes due to added future longevity costs. Ms Raimondo's Truth In Numbers campaign left that minor issue off the chalkboard. 2) If you actually do the math based on the real rate of return, compounded for a 30 year employment since 1980 until 2010, you will discover that those affected employees would have been better off in a 401K style savings plan. 3) There is no savings in the bank. We still have to win in court, an event I am not convinced will happen. I agree that we are in a financial mess, but placing the solution on the backs of a single group was not courageous, it was simply an expedient gamble. Treas. Raimondo knew it was a legal gamble from the start. As far as your problems in California, you might take that up with ex Gov Grey Davis, who in 1999, signed into law the largest retroactive pension increase in the state's history on a basis that the Dow would reach 25,000 within 10 years after the 1999 legislation (Senate Bill 400). Your problems are not the same as RI's.
Arthur Christopher Schaper December 28, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Thanks for writing. It is shameful and appalling how government leaders assumed the best for pensions and benefits. This insanity has got to stop. I agree-- a 401(k) plan is a better way to go. More choice and responsibility for the employee instead of the burden resting on the state or the taxpayer. I understand that Rhode Island has one-party rule at this time. What will it take for another party to dislodge this entrenched hegemony? Checks and balances do a better job of keeping governments accountable. I hope that Rhode Island residents do win in court. CA cities San Jose and San Diego led the charge for comprehensive union reform. Wisconsin's Scott Walker instituted budget reform which has saved money for the citizens, the cities, and the state of Wisconsin. Democrats would cringe to hear "Republican" or "Scott Walker" in RI, but Governor Chafee was a Republican at one time, and now an independent. Surely he has some integrity.
Arthur Christopher Schaper December 28, 2012 at 07:21 PM
"As far as your problems in California, you might take that up with ex Gov Grey Davis." CA threw him out of office as soon as he won reelection in 2002. At the time, the markets will still roaring, so no one was paying attention. Housing Crisis, Great Recession, and now everyone is paying attention. After Davis, CA got "Arnold". He had the bluntness without the character to compromise. "Girlie men" legislators stood by their unions instead of standing up for the people of "Cal-ee-for-nee-a". CA needs a "Chris Christie" type who will work across the aisle but refuses to give up the core issues. As for Raimondo, at least she and Boies are doing something. Everyone will have to hurt in these budget reforms. This country and the states have to have a serious discussion about pensions and benefits. People deserve to reserve for retirement, but the government whom they served must be preserved in the process. Still, David Boies needs to sue Brown, Davis, and every other legislator who passed those outrageous pensions enhancements in 1999. Thanks again for writing.
DownTown December 29, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Gary, if the retirement changes get overturned by SCOTUS (the eventual landing spot for the case) Rhode Island will empty out so fast it'll make Detroit look like a business haven.
Arthur Christopher Schaper December 29, 2012 at 01:04 AM
DownTown: Thanks for posting. I hope that RI will lead the way for citizens to demand that their leaders make the necessary reforms.
Gary Morse December 29, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Downtown, There were other options to the Raimondo proposal. It didn't have to be a legal gamble. And take a look at the typical RI voter. They knew in this years election where the fault was, but reelected the perps anyway.
B December 29, 2012 at 05:05 AM
What the future retirement plan should look like: The first 22 years of employment you are part of a pension plan. 22 years of work will give someone 35% of their salary in retirement. Salary will be based on the following: 1. A 10 year average of the highest wages payed to the worker while paying into the pension system. 2. The salary calculation will be based on the present value of the wages. 3. It takes 15 years to be vested in the plan. 4. Retirement age will be 65 years of age. After 22 years of employment the worker will be moved to an IRA plan. They will contribute 8.75% of their pay to the plan. The employer will match that amount up to $5,800.
Arthur Christopher Schaper December 29, 2012 at 04:07 PM
B: This is the kind of conversation that our leaders are supposed to be having. Thanks.
Arthur Christopher Schaper December 29, 2012 at 04:08 PM
"And take a look at the typical RI voter. They knew in this years election where the fault was, but reelected the perps anyway." Gary. you make a good point. With all due respect, "What is wrong with Rhode Island?" This state, like every state, deserves a real, two-party tussle. The RI GOP deserves more freedom. The Southern Strategy has played its course. The GOP needs a West-Coast East-Coast strategy.
mike westman February 13, 2013 at 12:02 PM
Actually Grey Davis and California got royally skrewed by Enron and energy traders of similar ilk.....they burdened the state with such horrible energy contracts (contrived and ....well....thanks for energy de-regulation.....) that all of California faced bankruptcy ....the fallout from that cascaded into the normal political arenas and Davis could not survive. Thanks again for energy de-regulation and the wonderfulness of unbridled free trade in markets necessary for our physical survival. Thanks. Grey was a victim of that.
Ted Geisel February 13, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Grey has apologized in speeches for being slow to act. Perhaps he even said it best: ""Believe me, if I wanted to raise rates I could have solved this problem in 20 minutes." Enron was run by a bunch of criminals but to say Grey was a victim is a bit of a stretch.
mike westman February 13, 2013 at 03:21 PM
Yes...he was not presidential material.....but he was blindsided and in retrospect he could have done something....but he did not and the hotshots at enron took the people of Cal. for a nasty ride.
Ted Geisel February 13, 2013 at 03:48 PM
I don't know about blindsided. In 1999 he was doing a trade trip to Greece for Enron to lobby for a wind project over there. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.
RS February 13, 2013 at 05:44 PM
If you do some digging you'll see that Walker reamortized a good portion of the debt and that will come due someday.....
RS February 13, 2013 at 05:46 PM
65 year old cops protecting me....I feel so safe.......

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