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Pension reform advocate wins in deep-blue Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo was elected governor. Who’s she? The state treasurer who became the architect of the Rhode Island’s pension fix. It isn’t the ideal plan, but in the case of the Ocean State, just about any plan would have been an improvement. Raimondo, a Democrat, was widely expected to face electoral difficulties due to opposition from labor unions. That claim is not as ridiculous as it sounds; though Republicans are rare in the state, Rhode Island has not elected a Democrat to the governor’s office since 1992. Nearly 60 percent of all voters chose someone else, and she bested the second-place finisher by (not quite) 4 percent.

Raimondo’s win may encourage other governors, especially Democratic Party ones, to step up to the challenge of reforming pensions.

But it was not all sunshine and roses for pension reform yesterday. Voters in Phoenix rejected a fiscal reform measurethat would have moved public employees into a 401k-style plan. The mayor, to the cheers of the unions, applauded the victory of “people power” over “dark money.” But as the vice-mayor noted, opponents of reform now need to find ways to address the looming fiscal gap created by the city’s pension obligations.

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