Chafee Pitches Plan to Senate Committee

Governor Chafee brought a package of plans to the Senate Thursday. It's a plan that he thinks will help keep Rhode Island's financially troubled communities out of bankruptcy.

The governor has called this package a lifeline for distressed communities, but for many unions, some of the powers that cities would receive to modify union contracts, just goes too far.

Especially when it comes to pensions and COLAs.

Dozens of firefighters crammed into the Senate lounge, to show their concern about the legislation being proposed by Governor Chafee. Its a package of bills that they feel, could take away benefits they've bargained for.

“We don't think that they're generous for the work we do. We run into burning buildings. We don't think they're generous benefits.” said RI State Association of Firefighters lobbyist, Paul Valletta.

Chafee's 7-piece legislative package will address everything from freezing COLAs, to removing certain state mandates, and even getting state aid to distressed cities earlier.

The plan is considered by many local leaders, to be essential, to ending the financial fix they find themselves in.

“If we do not find a solution to help save cities and towns, it will sink cities and towns and I think that does not help our state, it does not help our employees, nor does it help our residents.” said Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine.

After seeing the effect of bankruptcy and receivership, Governor Chafee says that taking action to try and stop other communities from going under, is a must.

“I'd like to avoid it if at all possible, in any other community, a lot of lawyers fees, a lot of cost.” said Chafee.

But many unions feel that the price they're likely to pay to help out is too high.

And after they've made concessions in recent years to address COLAs and pension benefits, they're wary of the process they see playing out, with the governor's legislation.

“We've been on record as saying we're willing to go on and help with these private pensions, but the mayors haven't called us, they're waiting for the state to do their dirty work.” said Valletta.