After a day of various politicians and special interests volleying back and forth about whether or not the state should negotiate with organized labor while its appeal of the pension reform law is making its way through the courts, Gov. Linc Chafee released this statement on why he thinks it’s smart to keep talks open:
I have confidence in the state’s legal case. But a strong case does not guarantee a win. I am therefore reluctant to rely exclusively on the uncertain outcomes of litigation. The most prudent approach is to continue to aggressively press the state’s case in court while, at the same time, exploring reasonable settlement options that could yield favorable alternatives in the best interest of the taxpayers. Engaging in settlement discussions is a near-universal practice during high-stakes litigation.
Some have said that now is not the time for negotiation. I disagree. The state has leverage only so long as there is still uncertainty as to the outcome of this case – a time period that grows shorter with each passing day.
I have great respect for the judicial system. Indeed, thoughtful discussions and settlement negotiations are an integral part of that system. All or nothing is not the only course, as any judge will tell you.
I have been disappointed that state leaders in a position to engage in reasonable discussions have chosen not to do so. There is no harm in talking, but the consequences of failing to talk could be tremendous, in a case where a loss – in the Treasurer’s own words – would be a “fiscal calamity.” It is my continued hope that other state leaders will join me in working to find common ground to protect the interests of Rhode Island taxpayers and the retirement security of all public employees.