About a hundred firefighters protested Monday morning outside a conference focused on distressed municipalities, where state treasurer Gina Raimondo was the keynote speaker. Inside, Raimondo applauded the cooperation it took from organized labor to make the state pension overhaul possible.
Raimondo told the crowd of municipal finance professionals that when it comes to tackling pension shortfalls there are no easy answers, no short cuts and don’t back down making tough choices. Raimondo crafted the state law that overhauls the state’s pension system. That law is currently making its way through the courts. If overturned, Raimondo says it cost costs cities and towns millions.
“We would pass $4 billion of tax increases on to the public and I think you would see one if not more bankruptcies,” says Raimondo.
Firefighters protesting outside say Raimondo’s pension law cut the pensions they were promised. Paul Valletta of the Rhode Island State Association of Firefighters says they dispute Raimondo’s claims that labor was part of the process.
“Part of her speech is that labor was at the table to talk about these changes and consequently we agreed to them, which neither of them is true,” says Valletta. “We were never at the table and we certainly haven’t agreed with them.”
Raimondo says she’s puzzled by that claim, saying she spent hours talking with firefighter leadership as she was crafting the pension overhaul.
After his address to the conference, Gov. Lincoln Chafee talked with protesting firefighters about their concerns.
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