State of Rhode Island | Fiscal Reform (2012):
Gina Raimondo, the Treasurer of Rhode Island, has done what few political leaders do, risked her short-term political future to preserve the long-term fiscal health of a public pension fund.
Once upon a time, politicians across the land found a magical formula for achieving popularity. They kept public employees' pay low, enabling low tax rates (hooray!); to make up for the low pay, they promised fat pensions down the road (huzzah!). The pensions were funded by gimmicks and wishful thinking. But that would be a problem for future politicians to reckon with.
Raimondo is one of the first to perform that necessary reckoning. Last year she led an un-precedented reform, raising the retirement age (to 67), freezing cost-of-living increases, and adding a 401(k)-like plan to the traditional (shrunken) defined-benefits plan.
Raimondo, a Democrat, says she ran for office largely to perform this thankless task. The state's pension payments were crowding out spending on other things like libraries and public buses - services she depended on in her youth. Amid the pain and the blame, Raimondo focused on the math, recognizing two things: That waiting longer would mean harsher adjustments for all, including the public workers themselves. And that the state has a duty not only to the past, but to the future as well.
Published in THE ATLANTIC, November 2012
by Don Peck, features editor, The Atlantic