The pension system continues to occupy center stage in Rhode Island’s race for governor. In one corner is current state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, whose 2011 pension reforms were among the boldest in the country and are the subject of numerous lawsuits from labor groups.
In the other corner in Angel Taveras, the current mayor of Providence who has been critical of the pension system’s investments under Raimondo and has accused the Treasurer of being in bed with Wall Street.
Raimondo released a new campaign ad yesterday – you can watch it above – that responded to Taveras’ claims. The Providence Journal reports:
In a new one-minute TV ad released to the media on Monday morning, Raimondo, the state’s general treasurer, looks into the camera and says of her leading rival in the Democratic primary race for governor:
“I’m Gina Raimondo and you might have heard about Mayor Taveras attacking pension reform, claiming I did it to enrich Wall Street. Nothing could be more wrong.”
“I was 11 years old when my dad lost his job at Bulova. I have never forgotten how hard that was. So when I became treasurer and inherited the pension crisis, I knew if we didn’t face up to the problem a lot of people were going to get hurt. And we couldn’t let that happen” she says in the video.
Raimondo, who is being sued by the state’s public-employee unions, next says: “Our reforms passed by overwhelming majorities in the legislature and, in the end, most of our changes were agreed to by every union except one.”
The Taveras campaign has been extremely critical of the hedge funds investments and accompanying investment fees incurred by the state’s pension system under Raimondo’s watch.
A Taveras spokesperson responded to Raimondo’s new ad:
“As a former venture capitalist who raised fees to Wall Street to $70 million, the Treasurer [Raimondo] has taken over $500,000 from the financial industry. The Treasurer received a no bid, secret contract managing taxpayer money that ensured that her venture capital firm was paid whether they made money or not. Rhode Island deserves a governor who has a record of standing up to Wall Street.”
Raimondo has been adamant that most unions were receptive to her reforms. But several union leaders have gone on record to say that is not the case. As the leaders told the Providence Journal:
Leaders of several of the state’s public-employee unions — including Council 94, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — accused Raimondo of misrepresenting their position in the high-stakes pension fight headed for trial next month.
“Council 94, AFSCME vigorously opposed the pension changes. The treasurer’s process was a farce,” said Council 94 President J. Michael Downey, a Taveras backer.
“Our ideas and suggested amendments were ignored. She broke her word about taking care of people with the least amount of pension benefits, in her words: ‘the little guy.’ And she harmed many municipal employees whose pensions were healthy,” Downey said.
Added Paul Reed, president of the Rhode Island State Association of Firefighters: “She never negotiated with us on any of these things.”
Both of those union leaders support Taveras.
Watch Taveras’ original ad below: