Pensions the latest political risk for RI governor

Legal Insight Posted on

In 10 months in office, Gov. Lincoln Chafee has managed to anger an impressive assortment of constituencies: business leaders and organized labor, medical marijuana advocates and critics of illegal immigration.

It's been a bumpy ride for the nation's only independent governor, who insists he's only doing what is necessary to stabilize government finances and heal the state's frail economy. But so far Chafee is winning criticism faster than compliments, a risky move for a politician without a party elected by less than half of Rhode Island's voters.

"This is a tough year — there are no surprises there," Chafee told the Associated Press during a recent interview. "This year's budget was one of the worst. ... We're facing a very difficult economy. My belief is the status quo is unacceptable here in Rhode Island. Changes have to be made."

There's no question Chafee took office during one of the most challenging times in Ocean State history. The state's jobless rate remains stubbornly high at 10 percent. The financially troubled city of Central Falls was forced to seek bankruptcy protection. A state budget deficit that once stood at $300 million led to difficult spending cuts even as the state's long-looming pension crisis further destabilized government coffers.

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