It’s interesting that both Gov. Linc Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo will be far flung tomorrow, talking about Rhode Island’s success in slashing public sector pensions.
For one thing, the issue is far from resolved. In fact, the courts only begin to consider the matter this Friday. And if precedent from other states is any indication, the matter of pension reform is still far from resolved.
And for another, Chafee and Raimondo are far from being on the same page on the matter. Shocker, I know.
I got an email from Gina the other day saying the public sector pension system had been “fixed … once and for all.”
Then Tim White reported last night that Chafee wants to work on a compromise with labor as the issue winds its way through the court system.
“In any litigation it’s common practice to have negotiations,” Chafee told WPRI. “I’m in favor of that: of having negotiation as litigation goes forward.”
To recap: as far as Gina is concerned, the issue has been put to bed. Linc, on the other hand, prefers the more proactive approach. And, just in case you were wondering, these two oft-adversaries probably aren’t playing good cop/bad cop with the unions.
Speaker of the House Gordon Fox is so far siding with Raimondo. His spokesperson Larry Berman sent me the same exact statement he gave to WPRI a day earlier.
“I am extremely proud of the process which led to the historic enactment of comprehensive pension reform that I sponsored in the House of Representatives. After months of review, which included 30 hours of open public testimony, we enacted a bill that we believe will withstand the challenge currently pending in our courts.”
Which was one better than what I got from Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed’s spokesperson, who didn’t get back to me.
Providence Mayor Angel Taveras weighed in on the issue, seeming to suggest the state should negotiate while it’s still in the driver’s seat.
“A loss in the litigation will eliminate any leverage that the state has to negotiate,” Taveras told Ian Donnis of RIPR. “And it’s going to require negotiation if you lose, but you’re going to be negotiating without leverage so I think it’s important to be doing it from a position of strength.”
As far as organized labor is concerned, they are pleased Chafee hasn’t closed the door on their interests.
“If the treasurer doesn’t want to talk and the governor does, we’ll sit down with anyone in the executive branch who is willing to sit down,” said Bob Walsh, the executive director of NEA-RI, the state’s largest teachers’ union. “The governor has the right to lead those talks.”