Arlene Violet: Chafee should blame himself

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Governor Lincoln Chafee is blaming the news media for his low job approval ratings. He said as much to former Providence Mayor, Vincent A. Cianci during Cianci’s Sunday morning talk show. The Governor went on to cite Mr. Cianci as an exception to the media “piñata” mentality. Apparently, the Governor has missed the radio shows where the former mayor has excoriated both Representative David Cicilline in his capacity as a former mayor and present Congressman, and former Providence police chief, Dean Esserman. Many others, including those law enforcement officials who were involved in Operation Plunder Dome which resulted in a racketeering conviction of Mr.Cianci, have been pilloried by Cianci. In any event, in the same news cycle the Governor proved why his own actions are the cause of his woes.
The Governor has proposed pay increases for his cabinet of 3 percent this June and another 3 percent at the end of December. All his chiefs make in excess of six figures and with health care and pension contributions thrown in, some are  making close to $200,000 per year. To propose such a hike in the light of the fact that the state has the highest unemployment rate in the country is ludicrous.  A year ago the Governor argued successfully against any pay increases for those in state higher education facilities, noting that such increases were wrong “at a time when Rhode Islanders are struggling and other state employees are making a daily sacrifice to help the state stay fiscally strong.”
One might ask why the Governor has proposed these raises during the time that he is currently negotiating new contracts with most of the state’s unionized employees. Certainly, it doesn’t set a good example. The unions are bound to demand equity which may precisely be the point of this Chafee maneuver. He can grant comparable raises claiming that there should be equity with higher paid state employees.
There’s no doubt that Mr. Chafee needs union support for his reelection. The unions handed him his last victory. The “long view” for the Governor, which I believe is in play here, is to use your taxes for increased pay for union workers to garner their support.  The cabinet raises are a “stalking horse” maneuver.
The sheer transparency of his motive is exactly why he gets criticized. The “Trust Chafee’ motto is fast becoming a “Bust Chafee” soubriquet, since he is using other people’s money to court favor. While the unemployment rate has inched lower, the net loss of well-paying jobs do not support such largesse.
Like a lot of politicians, Mr. Chafee professes a lot of love for the state employees and the “poor.” The middle class, however, is shafted. All his rhetoric of lowering property taxes is  a sleight of hand, as was his claims about having a surplus when he was mayor of Warwick. Left out of the boast was his imposition of taxes higher than they should have been, which created the surplus.The Governor should use his own campaign money rather than yours for his reelection bid!
So, watch for the real end game for these raises, namely his pandering to unions with increases when, coupled with labor raises in 2011, will be the equivalent of the 6% that he’s asking you to pay his brain trust.


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