To the Editor:
I am writing in response to comments recently made by Treasurer Gina Raimondo. In an interview with the Providence Journal, Treasurer Raimondo expresses her opinion that the state of Rhode Island must pay the money owed as a result of the botched 38 Studios deal. She is quoted in the article, “you don’t want to be the state that walks away from its moral obligations.” She made these comments in response to the growing speculation that the taxpayers of Rhode Island should not be burdened with the collateral damage from the 38 Studios deal. We as a state are under no legal obligation to pay, rather a moral obligation.
As a taxpayer, and especially as a current public employee, I find the treasurer’s comments completely out of touch, off base and, quite frankly, infuriating. Does she not remember what took place seven months ago? We are already the state that walks away from not only its moral obligations but also its legal obligation. We garnered that dreaded title when led by the treasurer, we, as a state, decided to walk away from a contract that provided retirement security to our state’s public servants. With one stroke of the governor’s pen, the state of Rhode Island “walked away from its obligation to some 30,000 of its own citizens.”
Now, after “walking away” from obligations to our own citizens, we are being told by Treasurer Raimondo we must honor the moral obligation bonds associated with the 38 Studios disaster despite the fact the state of Rhode Island is under no legal obligation to pay. Her comments in the Providence Journal interview clearly display the treasurer puts a priority on paying back bond holders to the detriment of Rhode Island’s citizens, specifically our hard working public employees.
The rebuttal from individuals with the same opinion as Treasurer Raimondo will say to not pay will result in increased interest rates in the future. While there may be some truth to that school of thought, we have heard from several government officials that increased interest rates may be a cheaper alternative than paying out over $120 million to clean up this mess. Furthermore, it is a sad day when some of our elected officials put a priority on repaying “Wall Street” at the expense of Rhode Island citizens. At what point did we as a state decide the priority should be “Wall Street” opposed to “Main Street?” When the General Assembly passed municipal bankruptcy legislation, one of the first acts of business was to ensure the bond holders were paid back first, before the small business who provides goods and services to the municipality, before the policemen and women who put there lives on the line every day, before the firemen and women who do the same, before your child’s teacher and the custodians who maintain a clean learning environment. I bring this up to illustrate the treasurer’s recent comments are not made on an island. There has been, for many years, a movement in this state by some elected officials to shift the financial priorities from the million or so citizens of this great state to a select few.
To bring it back to the treasurer’s recent comments, it is very disturbing to me as a taxpayer and loyal public servant that seven months ago the state of Rhode Island engaged in the most aggressive and overreaching pension overhaul in the country, sending a clear message to the rest of the country, “Rhode Island is indeed a state that walks away from its moral, as well as legal, obligations.” Now nearly half a year later, we are being told we must pay for a failed economic experiment. We will never move R.I. forward until we get back to putting a premium on our most valuable asset, the citizens of this proud state.
President Local 528, Council 94 AFSCME