Fox sides with Raimondo; Chafee says settlement talks in taxpayers’ interest

Dec 5, 2012

In sharp contrast to Governor Lincoln Chafee, House Speaker Gordon Fox is siding with state Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s argument that the time for negotiating last year’s pension overhaul is over.

Fox’s stance is pivotal; without his support, changes to the pension overhaul are a non-starter in the General Assembly.

Fox offered this statement to RIPR:

“It is not appropriate for me to negotiate legislation that was passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.  The time to negotiate was during the 30 hours of public hearings that were conducted by the legislature.  We always anticipated that there would be a legal challenge to this comprehensive law.  This law is critical to securing the state’s retirement system and placing Rhode Island on sound financial footing now and into the future.  The matter is now in the hands of the judiciary, where it will be appropriately decided.”

Chafee argues that being open to a settlement is in taxpayers’ interest. He expressed hope the General Assembly would be more of a partner than Raimondo.

Here are excerpts from a statement by the treasurer:

“I have great respect for the judicial system and we now must let this process unfold in an orderly and transparent way. We owe that to the people of Rhode Island. It is not the time for closed-door meetings. This is not a time for politics. This is too important to the future of Rhode Island.

“It’s now the job of the judicial branch to evaluate the legislation passed by the General Assembly, and we should let it do its work. If at some point the court asks the state to sit down to try and reach a settlement, we will do so in good faith. In the meantime, Treasury will continue to work diligently to defend the important work done by the General Assembly.

“It is important to pause and remember that the passage of the Rhode Island Retirement Security Act represented the culmination of 11 months of thoughtful, fact-based analysis and input from retirees, employees and taxpayers across Rhode Island, as well as national pension and legal experts. It was carefully designed by the General Assembly in an effort to save our state-administered retirement system.”

Meanwhile, Engage RI, the group founded with encouragement from Raimondo to build public support for last year’s pension overhaul, is reacting to Chafee’s willingness to pursue a possible settlement.

Here’s Engage RI’s statement:

“We are concerned by Governor Chafee’s apparent change of heart on RIRSA [RI Retirement Security Act], a bill he signed into law just a year ago. Further, we are saddened to hear of his desire to give away the retirement security of thousands of Rhode Islanders behind closed doors. There was – and remains – an open and transparent policy, legislative and legal process that has been followed by all parties involved. This process included “Truth in Numbers,” numerous public meetings, input from the Pension Advisory Group, General Assembly informational sessions, dozens of hours of public testimony and finally, the legislative process itself.  

“RIRSA is Rhode Island law and it is unfortunate that Governor Chafee would want to subvert this open and public process by talking with union leadership behind closed doors. As the court cases move forward, we are confident that the provisions in RIRSA are sound and we trust in our legal system that the outcome will be just.”