The real action on Rhode Island pensions has begun

December 19, 2012


Although the national media has always been a fan of Rhode Island State Treasurer Gina Raimondo, I’ve personally been lukewarm on her performance. She built a case for draconian changes in pension benefits for current workers by inflating the portion of the state pension plan that was unfunded. This led the State Assembly to adjust pension benefits in a way that seemed to go against the law. Unions sued the state and State Superior Court Associate Justice Sarah Taft-Carter has just ordered the case to undergo federal mediation. But I’ve always thought the bigger issue for Rhode Island was that its pension fund had horrible investment returns; some of the lowest in the country. And Treasurer Raimondo has only taken steps this week to change the fund’s management.

Fund fair Sandy repairs

December 18, 2012

I clicked on the live webcast of the U.S. Senate floor proceedings to find New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez pleading for Congress to take up H.R. 1, the Supplemental Appropriations Act that provides $60 billion in disaster funds for Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, Senator Menendez, in making his case for federal funding, was showing photographs of affluent Mantoloking, New Jersey. His advocacy shows why it is necessary for Congress to move slowly on the funding request to ensure that the spending gets to individuals and communities who really need assistance.

Time for gun control in America

December 14, 2012

Another mass killing in America. Another wave of grief and questioning. After the killing of 20 children and at least 6 adults in Newton, Connecticut, it’s time as a nation that we tighten the control of gun ownership. Australia changed its laws after facing a similar tragedy. After the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting in July that killed 12 people and injured 58 others, I wrote about how Australia approached gun control. It is worth revisiting and engaging the debate:

Get ready for more public toll bridges and roads

December 13, 2012

Governor John Kasich of Ohio and Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky are forming a bi-state team to research funding options to replace the 50 year-old bridge that crosses the Ohio River and connects their states. The Brent Spence Bridge carries about double the volume it was designed for on Interstate 71. It is an example of valuable U.S. infrastructure in need of replacement. The big question is where the funds will come from. AP has the story:

The effort to privatize Pennsylvania lottery hits a roadblock

December 12, 2012

Nothing makes me happier than to see law as the weapon of choice in a fight between public officials. There is a big battle underway in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania over the efforts of the governor to privatize the lottery, currently a big source of revenue for the state’s senior citizen programs. I wrote last week about Pennsylvania’s sweetheart lottery privatization deal:

Michigan excludes police and fire unions from “right to work”

December 12, 2012

Lansing, Michigan is aflame with the anger of union workers who object to how state officials have rammed “right-to-work” legislation through the state house. “Right-to-work” would end the requirement that workers join a union in their workplace if it is unionized. Union workers are especially incensed that the legislation was pushed through during a lame duck session without hearings or debate. The Detroit Free Press reports:

The politics of recovery money for Sandy

December 10, 2012

Several days after hurricane Sandy slammed into the tri-state area, President Obama toured the devastated shore with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and promised to deliver support. Last Friday, six weeks after the storm, the White House sent a $60 billion supplemental budget request to Capitol Hill for recovery funds. The request is likely to get tangled up in ongoing budget and debt-limit wrangling and intra-state politics. New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo is already showing some sharp elbows, as seen in the tweet above from his press conference last Friday with New York’s congressional delegation. Take that Chris Christie.

Pennsylvania’s sweetheart lottery privatization deal

December 7, 2012

There is a lot of darkness and a web of connections around the efforts to privatize the Pennsylvania state lottery. Tom Corbett, the governor of Pennsylvania, is attempting to force through the privatization before the legislature comes back into session in January and has a chance to review the terms of the 20-30 year deal. Democrats are howling.

California moves toward open source ratings for city bonds

December 6, 2012

In the past year, three California cities have filed for bankruptcy. This casts a pall on the bonds of other California cities, because investors wonder if they also contain buried fiscal issues. In an effort to create more transparency, a new open source ratings project was recently launched:

Women analysts dominate muniland

December 5, 2012

Over 2,700 votes were cast by institutional investors to identify the best muniland analysts from the buyside, sellside and credit rating agencies at Smith’s Municipal All-Star Program this week. Analysts from every side of the business were represented among the winners. But the majority of top awards went to women or teams led by women. Women dominate analytical muniland.