Chafee poised to introduce bill with “tools” for aiding struggling cities and towns
Governor Lincoln Chafee is expected later this week to unveil his long-anticipated bill for aiding municipalities struggling with unsustainable pension costs and other fiscal challenges.
Chafee has established a strong constituency among mayors like Angel Taveras, Allan Fung, Don Grebien and Joseph Polisena, and Taveras has figured prominently in Chafee’s campaign-style messaging on municipal finance. But the governor has been tardy in following through on his pledge last year to introduce a bill to help cities and towns on the first day of the legislative session.
Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger wouldn’t specify when the bill will be introduced, or what it will specifically include. But she says it will offer “tools” meant to aid cities and towns — including some of what mayors requested during a January strategy session with Chafee.
An item high on the wish-list of Taveras and some other mayors is enabling legislation giving them cover to suspend cost of living adjustments in local pensions.Yet even if such a measure was to win General Assembly approval — and that’s very uncertain — it might come too late to help Providence with its current money crunch.
Speaking last week on Rhode Island Public Radio’s Political Roundtable, state Representative Jon Brien (D-Woonsocket), chairman of the House Municipal Finance Committee, said he plans to “quarterback” efforts to help municipalities to rein in their pension costs. Brien said he sees the state Senate as a potential obstacle to the legislation.
That’s not surprising, since Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed said back in January that mayors struggling with local pension problems shouldn’t expect her chamber to support a “quick fix.”