Gina Raimondo is out of town, but her allies are still here to defend the pension law.
Engage Rhode Island, the deep-pocketed advocacy group that helped Raimondo pass the pension changes, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon criticizing Governor Chafee for talking with union leaders Tuesday about a potential settlement of their lawsuit challenging the law.
The unsigned statement said EngageRI is “concerned” by Chafee’s “apparent change of heart” on “a bill he signed into law just a year ago,” and is “saddened to hear of his desire to give away the retirement security of thousands of Rhode Islanders behind closed doors.”
EngageRI’s statement pushed back at the idea that unions weren’t given a chance to influence the process, and said it’s “unfortunate that Governor Chafee would want to subvert this open and public process by talking with union leadership behind closed doors.”
Raimondo released a statement shortly afterwards that, unlike EngageRI’s, only referenced the governor indirectly. “It is not the time for closed-door meetings. This is not a time for politics,” she said.
“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,” Raimondo said. “In the meantime, Treasury will continue to work diligently to defend the important work done by the General Assembly.”
House Speaker Gordon Fox also weighed in against Chafee’s initiative. “It is not appropriate for me to negotiate legislation that was passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor,” he said. “The time to negotiate was during the 30 hours of public hearings that were conducted by the legislature.”
In response, Chafee issued a statement of his own: “I have confidence in the state’s legal case. But a strong case does not guarantee a win.” The governor also said, “I have been disappointed that state leaders in a position to engage in reasonable discussions have chosen not to do so.”
Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, the last of the four principals in the pension drama, opted to stay out of the fray on Wednesday. “She is going to decline comment at this point in time,” Senate spokesman Greg Pare told WPRI.com.
Full statements from all parties after the jump.
• Related: Barro: RI came closer than most but didn’t fix pension problem (Dec. 4)
This post has been updated.