2011-11-17 / Editorial

Scattering Seeds

BY JOHN A. MURPHY

jamurphy@jamestownlawyer.com

There appears to be a growing consensus that the state and municipal governments in Rhode Island must reform their pension systems for retired workers. Some of the suggested reforms seemingly constitute a “breach of contract” between governments and their retirees and employees.

If governments must, for their very survival, contemplate such drastic action, then certain policies should be adopted so that some measure of fundamental fairness is preserved.

Those who obtained a pension after only 20 years of work, or before the age of 50, or without any contributions to the retirement fund, should be treated separately from those who worked a longer period before qualifying for their pension, and made regular contributions to the retirement fund.

Those who are “double dipping” in any fashion should be treated as a separate class.

Enhanced retirement benefits based upon a claimed disability should require regular recertification.

Additional benefits beyond the pension should have a copay requirement.

If a pension will extend beyond one person’s lifetime, the payments should be adjusted downward.

All governmental pensions should be capped at a reasonable level. The “little people” shouldn’t see their pensions reduced while others get six-figure or high five-figure pensions.

It would be truly unjust for there to be an across-the-board reduction of all pensions, either directly or by elimination of COLAs. Those surviving on modest pensions should not suffer because the system has been made unsustainable due to mismanagement and overly-generous pensions paid to those fortunate persons favored by political leaders over the years.

Return to top