Sea of special interests on pensions

Measured by the number of different interest groups involved, the fight over Rhode Island’s badly underfunded public-employee pension system may be unequaled in modern state politics. More

To continue reading this article, please do one of the following.


Sea of special interests on pensions

LIVELY DEBATE: The pension debate last week drew union members opposed to the proposed changes from across the state.
A MORE PERFECT UNION? James Mitchell, center, a member of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, protests outside the Statehouse last week. The pension issue has drawn a line between businesses and unions.
Posted 11/14/11

Measured by the number of different interest groups involved, the fight over Rhode Island’s badly underfunded public-employee pension system may be unequaled in modern state politics.

Politicians and union leaders are making their cases, of course, but so are retirees, businesses, charities and the state’s certified public accountants, to name a few.

“I don’t think that there is anything comparable in terms of scope, in terms of the sheer number of people who it affects and the number of interests it has involved,” said Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University. “You see that this debate is resonating with the voters more than anything I have seen in 18 years, mostly because unions have made it about unions.”

And whether it is because unions are polarizing these days or the issue simply cuts broadly across society, the debate has made for some unusual allies and enemies.

While spearheaded by a Democratic state treasurer and independent governor, the idea of sweeping pension reform has found support from Republican and conservative groups.

Social service organizations accustomed to joining forces with public-sector unions on policy issues instead find themselves working with businesses, while the unions stand on the other side with retiree groups.

“[Gov. Lincoln D.] Chafee has always been a consistent fiscal conservative, so it is not as surprising to me that conservative groups would support the governor, but it is remarkable when you see providers of social services in the same room as the chamber of commerce,” Schiller said.

“One understands why conservatives would like it: it is about lowering taxes and attacking public-sector unions,” said June Speakman, political science professor at Roger Williams University. “Why the Democrats support it has to do with the real financial burden.”

An example of conservative interest in pension reform comes from the newly formed Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a free-market think tank that has released several widely disseminated papers on pensions, including one that found 3,298 retirees statewide are making more from their pensions then they did at any time while working.

Next Page
PBN Hosted

Join PBN for the best networking event and party of the winter - January 15, 2015 - the Book of Lists Party at the Providence Public Library. Reserve your spot by December 31st and get a holiday gift from PBN!
  • Best Places to Work
    Enrollment is now open for the 7th annual Best Places to Work program. Winners w ...
  • Manufacturing Awards
    Applications are now being accepted for the 2nd Annual Manufacturing Awards. Dea ...
Purchase Data
Book of Lists
Book of Lists cover
PBN's annual Book of Lists has been an essential resource for the local business community for almost 30 years. The Book of Lists features a wealth of company rankings from a variety of fields and industries, including banking, health care, real estate, law, hospitality, education, not-for-profits, technology and many more.
Data icons
Data can be purchased as single lists, in either Excel or PDF format; the entire database of the published book, in Excel format; or a printed copy of the Book of Lists.
  • Purchase an e-File of a single list
  • Purchase an e-File of the entire Book of Lists database
  • Purchase a printed copy of the Book of Lists
    Latest News