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Treasurer Gina Raimondo criss-crosses Rhode Island to warn of pension crisis

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October 24, 2011

Rhode Island

CRANSTON, Rhode Island: Gina Raimondo, the recently-elected Rhode Island General Treasurer, has been criss-crossing the state to discuss with the public the stark fiscal choices the state faces.

In an extensive story in the New York Times in October 2011 that attracted national attention, Raimondo says that Rhode Island is "going broke." According to the story,

"After decades of drift, denial and inaction, Rhode Island’s $14.8 billion pension system is in crisis. Ten cents of every state tax dollar now goes to retired public workers. Before long, Ms. Raimondo has been cautioning in whistle-stops here and across the state, that figure will climb perilously toward 20 cents. But the scary thing is that no one really knows. The Providence Journal recently tried to count all the municipal pension plans outside the state system and stopped at 155, conceding that it might have missed some. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission is asking questions, including the big one: Are these numbers for real?"[1]

Raimondo said that the state faces two stark options: "We’re in the fight of our lives for the future of this state...Either the pension fund runs out of money or cities go bankrupt."[1]

Raimondo has been touring throughout Rhode Island to explain her views to the public on the financial condition of the state. At a meeting of the Cranston Portuguese Club in September 2011, she is described by the New York Times as facing "...yet another angry audience." Several members of the audience claimed that Rhode Island was poised to break its faith with the state's retirees and that this is immoral. To this, Raimondo replied that Rhode Island could keep paying for basics such as schoolbooks, roadwork, care for the elderly and other traditional social support items or it could maintain the state's retirement system in the status quo. She said, "I would ask you, is it morally right to do nothing, and not provide services to the state’s most vulnerable citizens? Yes, sir, I think this is moral."[1]

In her 2010 race for state treasurer, Raimondo won in a landslide, receiving more votes than any other candidate for any state office.[1]