Too often politicians claim that entrenched interests make it impossible to reform broken systems. Specifically, Democrats cite the threat of retaliation by powerful public employee unions as the reason why they simply cannot challenge the status quo. But as hundreds of us learned first-hand yesterday afternoon at the Manhattan Institute's 2011 Urban Innovator Award Ceremony - in one of the darkest of blue states in the nation, Rhode Island - an intrepid leader named Gina Raimondo has cast politics aside and gotten results. As reported in today's Wall Street Journal, the first-term treasurer put math before politics, outlining the gravity of the Ocean State's pension crisis in simple terms that everyone could understand.
Crisscrossing the state for nearly 10 months, showing these numbers - as she said - "to anyone who would listen," General Treasurer Raimondo built a network of support for lasting reform to the state's woefully underfunded public pension system, which included business leaders, homeowners, and private sector union members among others. The details of the reform are impressive and will go a very long way to put Rhode Island on a better fiscal path and to help other states reform their systems; however the political example is equally as impressive. Raimondo challenged the status quo and is living to tell about it. In fact, the latest statewide poll gives her a majority approval rating and shows that over 60% of Rhode Islanders support her reform package. Perhaps we will be calling her Governor Raimondo in the years to come.