During his campaign for governor, Lincoln Chafee promised to reform Rhode Island"s municipal pension systems, many of which are severely underfunded.
Among other things, he pledged to reduce disability pensions for those not totally disabled, increase years of service and higher age requirements for retirement eligibility, and create a "hybrid" retirement plan combining defined benefits with a 401(k)-style plan for new employees.
In 2011, the General Assembly passed a bill, later signed by Chafee, that made major changes to the state pension system. It also included requirements that each city and town develop a realistic assessment of its looming pension problems by April 1, 2012, and, by Nov. 1, 2012, develop a plan for correcting each underfunded plan.
In the 2012 legislative session, Chafee made a push to revise the municipal systems.
Specifically, his bills were:
* H8009, which would have given local city and town councils the authority to suspend cost-of-living increases for retirees if a pension plan was less than 60-percent funded, and limited future increases to the Consumer Price Index unless that plan was 100-percent funded.
* H8011, which called for reducing disability retirement pay for firefighters and police officers to as low as 50 percent if they were not permanently disabled. That would have applied to the Municipal Employee Retirement System (MERS) run by the state. Although the rule would have applied to both new and veteran workers, it would have applied only to cases filed after June 30, 2012.
* H8010, which was intended to address non-MERS plans. It would have prohibited any locally-administered pension plan from offering benefits that were more generous than the MERS program, and given local councils authority to scale back the benefits.
The three bills were heard by the House Finance Committee on April 4, 2012. On April 26, 2012, the committee voted to hold all of them for further study.
They never resurfaced, effectively killing the legislation until next year's session, when Chafee will have a chance to resubmit them or some other alternative.
"The governor remains committed to his municipal reform package," said his spokeswoman, Christine Hunsinger. "It didn't pass this year, which is a disappointment. He continues to believe these changes are necessary. The more time passes before these changes are made, the more cities and towns will teeter on the brink."
Because of the General Assembly's inaction and the fact that this year's session has ended, we rate this promise as Stalled.