paul valletta

Raimondo to Cranston firefighters: I respect union contracts

December 10th, 2012 at 6:01 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Hours before firefighters planned to picket her fundraiser, Treasurer Gina Raimondo reminded them that she opposed efforts last year by Governor Chafee, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and others to pass legislation suspending pension cost-of-living adjustments in their contracts.

“I do think it’s important to point out I was a staunch advocate in support of protecting and respecting collectively bargained-for agreements for those firefighters, and I still stand by that,” Raimondo told WPRI 12′s Nicole Estaphan on Monday at the State House.

Raimondo also took the opportunity to defend “the long process” that led to the pension law, and suggested Chafee is going the wrong way by holding closed-door talks with union leaders to discuss a possible settlement to end their lawsuit against it.

“Before the General Assembly passed this historic legislation they had dozens of hours of hearings and give and take and a lot of back and forth and negotiation at the time that led to the final passage of the bill,” she said. “Having said that, at some point as part of this process if the courts asks the parties to sit down and mediate we will do that in good faith.”

“I don’t know if [lawmakers] have ever spent more time on any other piece of legislation,” Raimondo added. “They held a special session. They looked at every possible scenario. The labor leaders were present for every part of the discussion.”

• Related: Firefighters organizing pension protest at Raimondo fundraiser (Dec. 10)

Firefighters organizing pension protest at Raimondo fundraiser

December 10th, 2012 at 10:31 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

• Update: Raimondo says she respects union pacts

Treasurer Gina Raimondo will have some uninvited guests at her fundraiser in Providence tonight.

Paul Valletta, president of the Cranston firefighters union, confirmed to WPRI 12′s Tim White that his members will be picketing outside a campaign fundraiser Raimondo is holding Monday night at Rick’s Roadhouse to coincide with the Patriots’ appearance on Monday Night Football.

“It’s just our way to say that we haven’t forgotten what the general treasurer did to many state workers, police officers, teachers and firefighters,” Valletta told White on Monday. “It hasn’t been forgotten that people’s lives have been changed negatively when they didn’t have to be.”

Valletta famously argued during last fall’s debate over the new pension law that Raimondo had “cooked the books” by getting the Retirement Board to change investment and actuarial forecasts in ways that worsened the pension fund’s finances. Raimondo said the new numbers were more accurate.

The R.I. State Association of Fire Fighters has asked all off-duty members to join the protest, writing in an email that it’s “very likely that she will be making a run for the governor’s seat next election.” Valletta said some police officers may show up, as well, but they don’t want to cause “a mess on the street.”

“One of the issues we are focusing on is the age issue: with the change to the pension you are going to have firefighters stay into their 60s and 70s to get a full pension,” he said.

Echoing an argument gaining steam of late, Valletta said Raimondo should have negotiated changes to the pension system at the bargaining table with organized labor rather than having state lawmakers approve the changes unilaterally.


A roundup of reactions to Chafee’s new municipal relief bills

March 16th, 2012 at 9:43 am by under Nesi's Notes

Josh Barro of Forbes argues Chafee’s embrace of far-reaching changes to how cash-strapped municipal governments operate is part of a larger trend:

Chafee is coming out for mandate reform for the same reason that mayors like Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel and Los Angeles’s Antonio Villaraigosa are aggressively pushing pension reform. A majority of the typical local government budget consists of compensation costs. States and localities face significant political and economic barriers to collecting new revenue. When budgets get squeezed, the practical choice is often between reining in compensation costs per employee or cutting back on service delivery.

For politicians who care about providing high-quality government services, public employee compensation reforms have become the best available option.

Bob Plain of Rhode Island’s Future thinks I missed a crucial distinction between Chafee’s ideas and Carcieri’s:

[T]he big difference is Chafee’s bottom-up approach. Carcieri’s proposal was a blanket exemption to every municipality and Chafee’s is need-based. RI Future has held the former governor’s feet to the fire for cutting so much money from cities and towns that had so little. So did Chafee earlier this week.

Here’s hoping that Chafee’s proposal sparks a big debate in the General Assembly about the disparity between the haves and have-not communities in Rhode Island as this is arguably the biggest affliction affecting the entire state.

Monique Chartier of Anchor Rising thinks it’s foolish that some of the savings would go into pension funds:

Many cities and towns do not have the revenue to properly fund their pension plans. Some cities and towns do not have the revenue to maintain day to day operations, much less try to make up underfunded and very generous pensions. Accordingly, how could they have the money to reinvest, exclusively or otherwise, into their pension systems?

The Projo reports labor leaders are not happy:

Governor Chafee’s proposal to let financially distressed cities and towns make significant changes to union contracts represents a “fundamental assault” on the labor movement’s “core values,” according to George H. Nee, president of the state AFL-CIO. …

[James Parisi, lobbyist for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals] said giving certain cities and towns the ability to freeze annual salary increases for teachers and change medical benefits were particularly offensive, considering local chapters have, over the years, made concessions in their contract negotiations. …

Paul L. Valletta Jr., lobbyist for the State Association of Fire Fighters, said the proposal essentially allows executives of financially distressed cities and towns to “rip up” collectively-bargained union contracts.

“I actually thought this governor thought more of working men and women of this state,” he said. “This opens up everything. There are no protections anymore.”

And in case you missed it earlier this morning, my take is that Chafee sounds a lot like Carcieri:

Chafee’s pitch on Thursday sounded much like his predecessor’s in December 2009. ”I urge the General Assembly to pass the municipal tools articles immediately upon returning to session,” Carcieri said. “There is no need to debate them again this year. Pass them and free the cities and towns to manage their own budgets.”