Take the Money and Run: Or, This here’s a Story about Ralphy-Pete and Gina-Liz…*
I will give credit to Governor-elect Chafee for having the good political sense of declining his statutory raise and putting the funds towards government employee recognition awards. (Producer Kara on the Helen Glover Show likened it to the Dundies given by the boss on The Office, Michael Scott. The “Chafees”?). So far, he’s the only one of the recently elected RI General officers to decline putting the money in his pocket:
Kilmartin spokesman Brett Broesder suggested the new attorney general has no choice. He said: “The salary increase is mandated by statute. Therefore, this is a matter of law, not politics. ”
Echoed Roberts’ spokeswoman Maria Tocco: “The salaries for the five statewide elected positions are set by statute. The lieutenant governor has no control over the level of pay set for the office. Along with other state employees, she will continue to participate in pay reduction days that resume in January.”
Added Mollis spokesman: Chris Barnett: “State law limits general officers who serve two terms to one raise over the eight-year span. This will be the only increase from his first day in office in 2007 to the day he leaves office in 2015.”
But, “he will continue to take part in the state’s deficit-reduction plan through furlough days along with all his colleagues in state government.”
A Raimondo spokeswoman said only that she would accept the higher salary and nothing more.
Whoda thunk it would be Mr. Chafee who’d be the one showing the most political acumen amongst these newly elected pols?
*Apologies to Steve Miller.
ADDENDUM (11/10/10): Gee, you put up one post noting an unexpected display of political acumen by Governor-elect Chafee and suddenly you’re considered a bedazzled, befuddled and bemused bouquet thrower! Forgotten are the plethora of posts where I’ve noted a lack of, shall we say, candlepower, in our new governor. Despite the criticism, I still stand by what I said: that, politically, Chafee handled the raise issue better than others. But apparently memories are short and I needed to provide more elaboration so people didn’t think I was being hoodwinked by our New Great and Powerful OZ. Here goes.
Basically, the bar is set so low when it comes to the soon-to-be Governor that I was surprised by the gesture. I was also surprised that, of all the general officers, it was Chafee who pulled this one out of his hat. However, and I didn’t think I needed to explain this (my bad), implicit in my acute evaluation of this display of “good political acumen” was a concomitant evaluation in how it will be received by the voting public. Call it cynical or realistic, but based on my observations of the RI electorate, I believe a lot of naive voters will think good ol’ Linc is doing the right thing by passing along his raise to the “little folks” that work in government. I probably also should have mentioned something that I thought when first hearing this: why didn’t the independently wealthy Chafee just set aside his entire salary? The fact that he didn’t forgo his entire salary reveals a certain shallowness to the gesture. In other words, though I think it was a case of Chafee playing populist–and that it will be, on balance, a little win for him–that doesn’t mean I approve of the motive or his policies any more than I did before. It certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to give him a pass.
That being said, I get what the criticism, particularly Dan Yorke’s, was about: don’t let the crazy uncle set the bar so low that we underestimate him and his policies when he’s actually clear on something. As Dan illustrated by using e-verify as an example: when our new governor really has a concrete idea on something, we’ll be able to tell. We’ll just have to learn how to tune out the emotion-based ramblings so we can focus on the occasionally clear signals Chafee does send.