Katherine Gregg notes, in a Providence Journal article, an interesting side effect of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s plan to pay off long-time state employees to retire. Gregg notes that the administration is assuming that 426 state workers will retire under the program, receiving $8.94 million in “retirement-incentive payments” and another $4.57 million in pay for unused time off from their years of employment.
[The plan] will also, coincidentally, turn state government into a hiring factory in the six months leading up to the 2018 elections.
So, heading into a statewide election for legislators and the governor, 426 union members will be happily flush with cash and another estimated 252 will have received seats on the state payroll gravy train. That’s a nice little bonus effect of retirement incentives.
Of course, we shouldn’t accept the governor’s estimates. Pushing employees into an underfunded pension plan may result in some near-term savings, but in the long term, it’s a terrible idea. Taxpayer dollars go toward these pensions, and with people living longer and longer and government employees’ pay on ratcheting scales, we’ll only end up paying multiple people at a time for each job.
These sorts of buyouts are a bad idea when the idea is just to save money, and the impulse exposes a much more problematic fact of government. Think about it: If these employees are so far from worth what they’re being paid that we’ll give them bonuses up to $40,000 to get rid of them, why are we paying them so much in the first place? If that’s not an indication that we need huge, systematic reform, then nothing is.
That point highlights the only time that buyouts might be reasonable in principle, which is when doing so is part of a system-wide fix. But nothing is being fixed, in this case. The governor’s just looking for a short-term budget trick that comes with some political benefit.