It wasn’t so many months ago that Rhode Island found religion when it came to unsustainable pensions and bloated contracts.
Those pensions had pushed one city into bankruptcy, others weren’t far off, and the entire employee pension system was on the brink. It was all finally enough to convince the legislature and even reluctant unions that it was beyond time for reform.
Sadly — and predictably — that resolve is fading fast.
Although firefighters, teachers — most other state public workers — had approved reforms, a police union balked and now the whole thing is headed back to court.
And last week, the Chafee administration approved raises for state workers— three 2 percent raises in just 18 months. They hadn’t received raises in awhile, was the rationale, so the time is apparently right to open the floodgates.
It’s as though those in charge have decided for reasons unknown that happy days are here again. This despite the fact that Rhode Island is tied for highest unemployment in the nation, is struggling to find $100 million-plus in savings to balance next year’s budget, and its governor can’t imagine any way to maintain bridges except to toll one that crosses the Sakonnet River.
The state has lived in a fool’s paradise where public sector workers retire at young ages with close to full pay, extraordinary benefits and cost of living raises for life. One decent year in the stock market has some pretending that it can all go on this way — that somehow a broke state will find the money to pay or it all.
Except that it won’t.
The unions (and the legislators who enable them) ought to realize by now that every moment reform is delayed, every clause that is watered down, hastens the day that the whole thing comes tumbling down.
Look at Detroit to see how that will work out for them.