fb-pixel Skip to main content

Get ready for another pension reform push in Providence

Providence, RI - 5/28/20 - Providence City Hall in Providence, Rhode Island on May 28, 2020. (Blake Nissen/ For The Boston Globe)
Providence, RI - 5/28/20 - Providence City Hall in Providence, Rhode Island on May 28, 2020. (Blake Nissen/ For The Boston Globe) Blake Nissen for the Boston Globe

If you have friends or relatives who would like their own free copy of this daily briefing about Rhode Island, tell them they can sign up here.


Happy Tuesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I’m strongly considering taking the rest of the week off to watch reruns of “Supermarket Sweep” on Netflix. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 17,487 confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday, after adding 165 new cases over the weekend. The state announced eight more deaths, bringing the total to 984. There were 67 people in the hospital, three in intensive care, and four were on ventilators.


We still don’t know how much the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a group of retirees who were challenging Providence’s pension reform ordinance will cost the city in the short-term, but the general consensus from city leaders is that the decision’s long-term implications are more concerning.

The high court’s ruling had multiple layers because of the complexity of the lawsuit, but the most significant part of the decision was that the city cannot impose pension changes through legislation – like freezing cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) – on retirees who were part of previous pension-related consent decrees, unless the retirees agree to the changes.

That has left Mayor Jorge Elorza, City Council members, and about 10 wannabe mayors in 2022 worrying that it is unlikely retirees will ever again agree to pension changes because most of them are now locked into a separate settlement with the city from 2013. The idea is that if retirees have a Supreme Court ruling on their side, why would they need to negotiate anything?


With the city’s pension system just 26 percent funded, Providence City Councilman David Salvatore is calling for a new committee to be created to consider the city’s next steps.

Salvatore’s ideas range from obvious to extremely complicated. He said the city should explore making larger annual payments to the pension system in years when a budget surplus is achieved, and that city leaders should ask state Treasurer Seth Magaziner about allowing Providence to join the state pension system.

Salvatore, who led a similar committee during his first term on the council, said the group should also explore “funding mechanisms that other cities and states have utilized by leveraging their facilities, properties and other assets,” like Roger Williams Park, for example.

”It is our responsibility to examine all decisions worth considering so that we can resolve our pension liability and rebuild our city’s strong foundation,” Salvatore said.

It’s probably too late in the term – 2022 is really just around the corner – for the city to make a dent in the unfunded liability, but Salvatore’s idea to create a committee is worth considering. A group of administration officials, councilors, and outside experts could spend the next two years seriously reviewing all options and prepare a report for the next mayor’s first day in office.


Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you’ve got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ Scoop: Governor Gina Raimondo is planning to propose spending $200 million in federal coronavirus relief funding on small businesses, job training programs, and affordable housing.


⚓ Is Jeff Britt, the Rhode Island political operative charged with money laundering and making a prohibited campaign contribution to bolster House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello’s 2016 reelection campaign, about to plead out? Ed Fitzpatrick has the story.

Richard Gelles, a former URI professor who was a scholar of family violence and child-welfare system, has died at the age of 73.

⚓ Rhode Island is still planning to open schools on Aug. 31, but we are now starting to see districts in other parts of the country - including Los Angeles - elect to continue distance learning in the fall.


Books: The new book written by Mary L. Trump - the president’s niece - is out today, so here’s the Globe’s review.

Sports: Chad Finn wasn’t a fan of the Patriots signing Cam Newton, but now that it has happened, he’s all-in.

Opinion: Two former US Senators and two former senior White House officials argue that there is little confidence that one can rely on President Trump to take a restrained view of his powers as have presidents in the past.

Did you know?: The football team name “Redskins” has deep ties to Boston.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.


⚓ Shot: The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC) and Bryant University’s Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership are holding a webinar at 9 a.m. to discuss the investments the state needs to make in a post-pandemic world.

⚓ Chaser: My colleague Jon Chesto is holding a 10 a.m. virtual coffee hour to discuss Boston’s economy.

⚓ The House and Senate Finance Committees are scheduled to take up a proposed 20-year gambling and lottery contract for IGT and Twin River. A lot has happened since this deal was announced in January. Here’s a refresher.

⚓ Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is holding a 6 p.m. discussion to explain to residents how to access help if you are facing eviction.

⚓ Do you ♥ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you tomorrow.

Please tell your friends about Rhode Map! They can sign up here. The Globe has other e-mail newsletters on topics ranging from breaking news alerts to sports, politics, business, and entertainment — check them out.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.