On Politics

Raimondo pledges “good faith” effort on pension mediation; Chafee “pleased”

State Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a leading advocate for litigating the pension case in court, is out with a statement responding to the mediation ordered this morning by Judge Sarah Taft-Carter:

“I have great respect for the judicial system and it is important to let this process unfold in an orderly and transparent way. We owe that to the people of Rhode Island and to our public employees.

“We continue to believe the state has a very strong case and a terrific legal team. As I have consistently said, we will participate in court-ordered mediation in good faith.”

RIRSA [the RI Retirement Security Act] represented the culmination of 11 months of thoughtful, fact-based analysis and input from retirees, employees, taxpayers, municipal leaders and union leadership, as well as national pension and legal experts. It was carefully designed by the General Assembly as part of an historic special legislative session in an effort to save the state-administered retirement system for public employees.

RIRSA was enacted in November of 2011 by a vote of 57 to 15 in the House of Representatives and by a vote of 35 to 2 in the Senate and moves the state forward by:

 – Allowing us to honestly tell our public employees that their retirement is secure
– Ensuring that future pension costs are predictable and sustainable 
– Immediately reducing the unfunded liability by about $3 billion
– Saving cities and towns $1 billion over the next two decades
– Saving Rhode Island taxpayers  $4 billion over the next two decades.

Governor Lincoln Chafee has this reaction:

As I have said, it is common practice and a wise approach for settlement discussions to be held while litigation is proceeding. I am therefore pleased – though not surprised – at Judge Taft-Carter’s order for mediation talks.

While the state has a strong case, a strong case does not guarantee a win. A negotiated settlement that is satisfactory to both sides could be in the best financial interest of the Rhode Island taxpayers. Such an outcome would be a favorable alternative to costly, uncertain litigation and – worst of all – the “fiscal calamity” of a potential loss in court.

Throughout my time in public office, I have believed in coming together to find common ground and common solutions. Again and again, I have seen the success that can come from a cooperative approach, whether during the dispute between Warwick teachers and the School Committee when I was Mayor, in the Central Falls teachers’ crisis, or, more recently, as Governor, the agreements on the airport runway extension and between Brown and the city of Providence. I have learned that all-or-nothing is an approach that can bring a tremendous potential downside. There simply is no harm in talking. Judge Taft-Carter’s decision demonstrates the wisdom of this course, and I look forward to continuing this important process.