General Treasurer Gina Raimondo speaks to the Pawtucket Rotary Club during their luncheon at St. Paulâs Parish House Thursday. Raimondo spoke about Treasury programs, but when pressed, spoke about pension reform and her possible run for governor.
(Photo by Ernest A. Brown)
PAWTUCKET â General Treasurer Gina Raimondo still isnât making any commitments to run for governor next year, but she told the Pawtucket Rotary Club Thursday that, if she does run her top priority would be to create job opportunities for Rhode Island.
Noting that the statistic quoted for unemployment in Rhode Island is above 9 percent (9.1), Raimondo told the Rotarians that if you count people with part-time jobs who want full-time employment, the rate is actually closer to 17 percent.
âThat is the issue,â she said. âHow many people do you know who say, âthere are no jobs here for our kids, all my kids are leavingâ?â
The Democrat pledged that âIf I run and if I win, I will take all the skill and passionâ that she has put toward pension reform and apply it to bringing down the unemployment rate.
In a brief speech followed by a question-and-answer session, Raimondo said she is sticking to a schedule of making a decision on the governorâs race âby the end of the year.â
If she were to make a bid for governor, the field of opponents has started to take shape.
Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, a Democrat, and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, a Republican, have each announced their bids in the past two weeks. Declared candidate Ken Block, who announced his candidacy months ago, recently revealed that he will run as a Republican.
That leaves Raimondo and Clay Pell, the grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell as potential candidates who have yet to take the plunge.
Asked after the event if there is a possibility that she could still run for a second term as treasurer, Raimondo told The Times, âof course.â
One question from the audience concerned the heat she has taken for what have been called excessive fees the state is paying to managers of hedge funds and for other alternative investments.
âI do think it is important to realize where the criticism is coming from,â Raimondo said. âThe union leadership has spent tens of thousands of dollars to come after me. The reports you are reading in the paper isnât necessarily true. It should be seen for what it is, a paid-for political hit job.
âOur allocation to alternative assets is slightly less the average pension funds around the country,â she asserted. âItâs all about what you are going to get for your fees. If you pay fees to protect yourself from the downside, then it is money well spent.
âFor example, in 2008 and 2009, when the market crashed, the state pension system lost nearly $2 billion in value,â Raimondo said, adding that if the pension fund money were allocated then the way it is now, âwe would have saved $500 million.â
She told the group that is her job to protect the pension system and, with the way the fundâs assets are now invested, âwe will lose less money the next time the market crashes.â
Last year, she said, the pension fund earned 11 percent ânet of all fees and expenses.â
Protecting the value of the fund is important, Raimondo said, pointing to the pain created when Central Falls went bankrupt and slashed the pension payments to retirees.
âIn Central Falls, they went to people who are 70 and 80 years old and cut their pensions in half,â she said. As a result, âthese people are losing their homes, they canât buy their groceries, they canât pay for health care.â
Raimondo said, âit is really sad that politicians have anything to do with pensions. There shouldnât be politics involved with anybodyâs pension.â
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