Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Pawtucket 03-27-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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18 OPINION MARCH 27-APRIL 2, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | PAWTUCKET EDITION Nothing bespeaks how out of touch with taxpayers our legislators can be than the recent bill, HB-5819, sponsored by representatives Robert Craven, Michael Morin, Carol Hagan McEntee and newcomer, Justine Caldwell. These legislators want to add to taxpayer costs of funding the pension by avoiding the COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) language in the past reform legislation that requires stabilization of the pension fund before COLAs are re-started by allowing a "stipend" for practically all of the 30,000 retirees, which initially will cost $12 million more per year and will con- tinue to grow thereafter by a bump-up "stipend." As you recall, pension reform was passed and implemented to stabilize the underfunded pension system. Just before the "reform," the teachers' pension was funded at 61 percent of full funding in 2010. In the last report ending June 30, 2018, on the state treasurer's site, the funded level dipped to 54.9 percent. The state employees fund also has dipped to 52.9 percent as of this last report. Now, here's the corker: The funded liability actually decreased notwithstanding an additional $2 billion coughed up by taxpayers – well beyond their initial obliga- tion. In other words, we are going backwards despite the lofty promises that by 2031 the pension security ratio will be $4 in for every $5 obligat- ed, i.e. an 80 percent funding level. Hogwash! In effect, despite the $2 billion additional infusion of taxpayer money into the pen- sion system since "reform," we are basically in the same place as pre-reform. The aforesaid legislators' proposal adds millions of dollars of further taxpayer obligations. The pension system contin- ues to be "raided." As is pres- ently happening in Johnston by its firefighters, they work pretty steadily until their final years where they amass copious overtime in order to boost their pensions since it is based on their last few consecutive years. Absolutely nobody in political office who cloaks themselves with the "reform" mantle has moved a muscle to change this provision to a more realistic picture of service. Similarly, it is not only the sheriffs' department where workers have been collect- ing checks ad infinitum for "injured-on-duty status." Even when the court of competent jurisdiction rules that the per- son is not entitled to "injured- on-duty status" the employee continues unabated to collect the moolah. Here is the reality: Taxpayers will be perennially on the hook. Yes, it is good that the present state trea- surer reduced the expected rate of return of the invested pension funds to 7 percent, though most analysts think that 5.5 percent is the more realistic figure. Nonetheless, the public continues to be sprinkled with fairy dust. The executive and legislative branches seem incapable of mustering any courage to challenge the unsustainable pensions. In a recent interview with Ken Block, he noted that despite the initial reform the state is treading water. "Basically, we are as much now in the same situation as before pension reform. How can taxpayers be expected to cough up more and more money without asking the recipients for any giveback? Everybody needs to consider the common good." That's a good question and a gutsy one. Present leaders wear the mantle of reform- ers yet they dodge the reality which still exists. Anyone who supports HB-5819 should be taken out to the back shed. Right now there are more state retirees than those working, so a vote for this bill drains the pot of gold for present workers. Let's have real reform! Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general. Rep. Morin, of Woonsocket, is a retired firefighter. Pensions worsen; new giveaway arrives I'm happy to report that I was in attendance at Monday morning's business breakfast of the Northern R.I. Chamber of Commerce, and I heard something you'll probably all be pleased with. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello addressed the gathering and made it clear: The six-year car tax phaseout he championed will not be reduced! Your tax cut is coming, despite all of the state's ballooning needs. After all, your family has needs, too. This is no small matter, as Gov. Gina Raimondo contin- ues to try and create costly new programs (like more free college) without any source of revenue. In fact, Mattiello made a point of complain- ing about a proposed budget from the governor that counts money we don't even have yet. This year, it's $8 million from the not-yet-passed legal- ization of recreational mari- juana. Last year, it was sports betting. It's a twisted game of chicken, where the governor proposes new goodies and dares the House to not pass them. But it was clear Monday: Year three of the reduction of your car taxes will take place this year, period! Thank you, Mr. Speaker! More sunshine The solar chatter grows as we work to save the planet. Cumberland is now looking at siting a solar farm on the former town dump off Albion Road. That makes sense. The land is useless, and partially polluted. Why not? Compared to the flattening of virgin woodlands by solar developers across the state, this is genius. In Smithfield, however, a setback for the green team. There, the School Committee voted to not allow solar panels on school roofs. Why not? Because the roofs are two years old, and the warranty might be voided. They did the right thing. I don't write this to either criticize or applaud Smithfield. I write this to caution oth- ers: The school improvement spigot is now open with the passage of a state bond issue last fall. If solar panels make sense, then let's put them atop schools at the same time roofs are repaired. This isn't rocket science. As for Smithfield – I'm sure they will be re-visiting this. Pumped up We've all been stung by the recent increase in gaso- line prices. "Since Feb. 18," wrote AAA of Southern New England Monday, "prices locally have jumped 24 cents per gallon." But there's more bad news coming. As you may know, there are "summer blends" of gasoline which help protect the atmosphere and reduce smog in the dog days of July and August. The bad news? They cost about 20 to 25 cents more per gallon, and that increase is just beginning, according to AAA. Prices are expected to peak around Memorial Day, unless some- thing unanticipated happens to crude oil prices. So costs are about to get even worse. Like plastic daffodils! Next Saturday, this newspa- per will be hosting our annual Yellow Bag Day roadside clean-up in Cumberland. I started the effort at the urging of Tony Fascitelli, who (like me) was offended by the mess along our roads, but (unlike me) thought the state would do something about it. So we bought the bags, and it's gone on for 14 years now. If you'd like to help on April 6 or 7, write to me at tward@valley- In Lincoln, Councilman Ken Pichette now organizes the Manville effort on the same afternoon. Write to him at ken-, or show up April 6 at noon at Navigant Credit Union. There's plenty to do. Welcome aboard! Of course it's not over! So last Friday, it became known that neither President Trump, nor anyone in his fam- ily or campaign, "colluded" with Russians to try to influ- ence the 2016 election. And while nothing was found by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller that rose to the level of a crime, Trump has not yet been exonerated fully on the possibility of obstruct- ing justice. But much to the dismay of some, he won't be impeached on this, and he's not heading to jail. Two headlines in Monday's Wall Street Journal said it all. First was "Mueller finds no Trump collusion." And second, "Democrats press on with their probes." Perhaps Democrats' left-wing friends on cable TV can be a bit less accusatory and breathless going forward. We'll see. Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze Our car tax cut safe From the Publisher TOM WARD Poli-Ticks ARLENE VIOLET ABOUT US The Valley Breeze Newspapers are a locally owned and operated group of free weekly newspa- pers serving the people of Cumberland, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Woonsocket, Smithfield, Scituate, Foster, Glocester, North Providence, Pawtucket, R.I., and Blackstone, Mass. Each Thursday, 58,500+ copies are distributed to retailers, banks, offices, and restaurants and other busy spots. Circulation is audited by the Circulation Verification Council of St. Louis, Mo. and has earned its "Gold Standard Award." OUR MISSION It is the Mission of The Valley Breeze to facilitate a positive sense of community among the res- idents of Northern Rhode Island by providing a forum for the free exchange of ideas, and to provide information of local events and neighbors. It is our further Mission to provide the highest quality advertising at the lowest possible cost to retailers, professionals, tradespersons, and other service providers in order to enhance the economic well-being of our community. Thomas V. Ward, Publisher James Quinn, Deputy Publisher Ethan Shorey, Managing Editor Barbara Phinney, Controller Volume X, Number 32 March 27, 2019 @ Breeze THE VALLEY

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