By Dee DeQuattro, WPRO News
Speaker of The House Gordon Fox says the time for negotiation on the pension reform issue has passed. In a statement released Wednesday afternoon Fox agreed with General Treasurer Gina Raimondo who said that a challenge by the unions to the pension reform bill should be handled in court and not through negotiations as Governor Lincoln Chafee has suggested.
“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,” read Fox’s statement.
Raimondo agreed with Fox’s sentiment in her own statement, taking a stab at Governor Chafee for having a meeting with Bob Walsh the head of NEARI and George Nee the president of the AFL-CIO RI on Wednesday.
“"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,” said Raimondo. "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.”
Chafee said that he feels it is his duty as Governor to negotiate with the unions as the case goes forward to determine if the matter can be resolved outside of court.
“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.