The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Rhode Island Gears up for Fight Against Blue

Rhode Island took a major step forward in its fight against big blue on Thursday, announcing a new plan that will give local mayors much more leeway to reform the state pension plans that are driving many municipalities to the brink of bankruptcy. Boston.com reports that  Governor Lincoln Chafee, an Independent, plans to allow localities to cut back on benefits and payments to retirees, end automatic salary hikes for state employees, and reduce the number of state employees mandated by law.

This is a step in the right direction for a state that has been called the “Athens of America” for its years of allowing politicians and unions to collude in raising pensions and benefits for state workers with little consideration of the state’s shaky budget. While this proposal will not be enough to undo years of myopic, expensive legislation, it is at least a sign that state politicians are aware of the problem they face and are willing to confront it.

Predictably, state unions and some politicians have vowed to fight the proposal, but a surprising number of the state’s politicians, who are mostly Democrats, have signed on. Mayors have welcomed the move, which will help them patch up their budget gaps, of which Providence’s $22 million deficit is only the most prominent example.

These cuts will be painful, but delaying them would be far worse. The basic facts can only be ignored for so long, and it’s good to see that Rhode Island has decided to face reality.

Published on March 23, 2012 3:00 pm
  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    “These cuts will be painful, but delaying them would be far worse. The basic facts can only be ignored for so long, and it’s good to see that Rhode Island has decided to face reality.”
    Why do you end so many of your articles with such pap? I say, what took them so long? How come they couldn’t see what they were doing from the beginning? Had they not done these stupid things to begin with, they wouldn’t be in the position they are in now. How much better off would the whole state be, if they had recognized reality much sooner? Since it’s the Democrats that have put the state in its present condition, why trust them to fix things properly now? Isn’t it more likely that they will just make more stupid mistakes, which they will then fail to recognize, just like before? Rhode Island needs to fire these idiots, and replace them with Republicans that know that the same thing will happen to them if they don’t do a much better job.

  • Kenny

    Ideally, all the cuts and pain should fall on those in the public sector.

    Does that sound harsh? It isn’t.

    Those people NEVER deserved the compensation they received. And none of them ever worked hard — at least in their public sector jobs.

  • Doug Page

    If this goes through, this means the governor of Wisconsin, who faced a huge battle about this last year, fought this problem before anyone else did.

  • Kenny

    Speaking of Rhode Island, see “The Democrat Who took on the Unions” in the Wall Street Journal of March 23.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204136404577207433215374066.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop#printMode

  • Jim.

    So Professor Post-Blue, what’s your take on the Supreme’s ACA hearings?