By now, everyone knows about Gina Raimondo’s track record on pensions. Despite the controversy surrounding her 2011 reform efforts and subsequent investment strategies, she made pensions a central facet of her campaign for governor.
Her Republican opponent, Allan Fung, is now taking up a similar strategy. Fung, currently the Mayor of Cranston, has this week begun touting his own record of pension reform. From Public Sector Inc:
Like Raimondo, Fung, who served on a reform panel that helped craft the 2011 state pension changes, has been an ardent backer of trimming pensions to make them more affordable. The difference is that the media hasn’t seemed to consider that such an unusual story for a Republican politician. Raimondo, by contrast, has benefited from a barrage of stories hailing her as a Democrat willing to take on public employees and their unions.
Cranston’s current employees participate in the state’s retirement system, so the city had a stake in the state-engineered reforms. But Cranston fire and police retirees and those workers who were hired before July 1, 1995 participate in a separate city-directed plan that was deeply in debt . Although the plan has just 483 members, the vast majority of which were already retired, the plan was so expensive that it cost the city $22.3 million to support this year, amounting to 20 percent of the city’s operating budget, excluding its school system.
Earlier this year Fung struck a deal with the majority of plan members to suspend cost of living adjustments and to cap any future COLA’s at 3 percent. The deal is expected to save Cranston about $6 million a year for a plan that was so expensive that the city began winding it down in 1995. When Fung took office in 2008 the pension system had just 15 percent of the assets on hand necessary to pay its current liabilities, and Fung warned beneficiaries that a day could come when the fund went bankrupt. Now the system is on track to be fully funded, but it will take two decades.
Cranston is also saving money because Fung struck a deal to place new city employees in a 401(k) style defined contribution plan.
A side note: this election will be a historic one for Rhode Island no matter who wins. Raimondo is vying to become the first woman governor in the state’s history. Fung, meanwhile, would be the first Asian elected to that office.
Photo credit: “Mayor Allan Fung visits Providence” by Office of Mr. Fung. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons