Governor Chafee says he is trying to negotiate with union members outside of court in an attempt to save the pension reform bill and to save the tax payers some hefty legal bills.
“I think that in any litigation it is common practice to have negotiations has the litigation goes forward, and I am in favor of that having that negotiation as the litigation goes forward,” said Chafee. Yesterday afternoon the Providence Journal reports seeing two local union leaders, Bob Walsh the head of NEARI and George Nee the president of the AFL-CIO RI leaving the governor’s office
“As the Governor and General Assembly we are the ones stuck with the bill if we fail in court and so we are the ones who really have the responsibility to pursue every avenue possible that’s fair to the tax payer. That includes negotiation to get this settled so we don’t fall in a deep, deep hole if the court cases are adverse to us,” said Chafee.
State unions are currently mounting a legal challenge to the historic 2011 pension reform bill. General Treasurer Gina Raimondo disagreed with Chafee. Her office told the Providence Journal that the state should not be negotiating with the unions on this matter and that the state has a strong case in court.
The former state auditor General and candidate for governor in 2014, Ernie Almonte said he thinks the governor is make the right move. “I give the governor credit,” Almonte told the WPRO Morning News with Tara Granahan and Andrew Gobeil. “You know the law wasn’t perfect, maybe a negotiation could come up with a better plan and in the end everyone would have a vested interest in making it a success instead of fighting it.”
Almonte said he does not believe the state has a “slam dunk” case in the lawsuit and said to proceed without negotiation is the equivalent of “betting it all on red or black.” Almonte was recently involved in reviewing the pension plan in Pawtucket and making suggestions on how the city could cut costs.
Meanwhile, the debate over whether Judge Sarah Taft-Carter should be allowed to hear the pension overhaul case is heading to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. The state argues that Taft-Carter has a vested interest in the matter because her son is a Rhode Island State Trooper and will someday collect a pension while her mother collects her deceased father’s mayor pension. The Rhode Island Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Friday December 7.
A columnist for the New York Times said that a lot if at stake with the Rhode Island pension case noting that it is the “first major test of whether and how, financially strained states and cities can cut the benefits of their workers and retirees.”