Like most political and civic organizations in our state, the Libertarian Party of Rhode Island (LPRI) has been taking an active role in the state and municipal pension crisis that threatens to become THE biggest issue in Rhode Island history. The potential impacts of this crisis are staggering. It has been reported in the media that potential total unfunded pension liabilities currently approach close to $10 Billion. The LPRI has been participating in the on-going State House hearings on this issue as well as many other forums and events that have been held throughout the state. We intend to stay focused on this issue and will work to ensure that the rights of all state citizens, including workers and taxpayers, are respected throughout the process to achieve a viable solution to this critical problem.
Based on publicly available information, the LPRI believes that much of the current crisis is due to the inability of our big-government state bureaucrats to properly manage the funds entrusted to them by workers and taxpayers. Years of irresponsible spending via unsustainable benefits and failure to properly fund the various pension accounts have gotten us to the precarious position that we are in now. The question becomes whether or not the very same governments, consisting of Democrats and Republicans, that created the current mess can reasonably be expected to both fix it and properly maintain things in the future, given the years of neglect and mismanagement that we have experienced.
As is widely known, State Treasurer Raimondo and Governor Chaffee are working on proposed legislation that will be submitted to a special session of the Legislature this month. It is likely that this legislation will be taken up in this special session in the very near future. While some potential aspects of the proposal have been reported in the media, the exact nature of the legislation will not be known until the special session is convened.
Accordingly, the LPRI believes that to properly resolve the current crisis, this legislation needs to fully satisfy the following general principles and concepts:
- The rights of the workers, pensioners and survivors that have paid into the various pension plans, as well as future workers, must be respected and protected.
- The rights of the state and local taxpayers that have paid into these same plans must be respected and protected, as well as their future claims to their money and property, ie. no tax increases.
- The ability of the government to attract and retain workers for those limited functions that are required, such as fire, police and courts should be maintained.
- The resulting solution should help minimize the size of government and have the best chance of avoiding any recurrence of future government mismanagement of worker and taxpayer money.
While the LPRI has tremendous respect and appreciation for the dedicated efforts of Ms. Raimondo and her staff, we believe that the approach proposed by Steve Laffey during a recent forum in East Greenwich best satisfies these criteria. The only long term solution that we have encountered that has the best chance to protect the rights of all parties involved and not come back to haunt us again is to cut the power of our huge state government by ending the pension system as it now exists and implementing a buyout that involves giving back to all the pensioners and state and municipal workers a share of the current proceeds of the various pension funds. Thereafter, the workers will not have ANYTHING deducted from their paychecks and the taxpayers will have NOTHING more added to their tax bills so that our politicians and unions will find it that much harder to build another system of you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll scratch-yours influence in the future. We strongly urge Treasurer Raimondo, Governor Chafee and legislative leaders to consider, propose and implement a solution of this type.
However you feel and whatever bill is presented to and/or finally drafted and voted on/passed by the Legislature and Governor, it is essential that all Libertarians and Rhode Island citizens become involved and act NOW to become a part of this process by, as a minimum, contacting their legislators, House and Senate leaders and the Governor and voicing your opinions. The impacts of this crisis will impact EVERY state resident. We cannot afford to let the usual powerful and influential players have the final say on these issues that will have such tremendous impact on us well into the future.