Governor speaks candidly to local reporters
In a candid meeting held last Thursday with reporters and editors of local Rhode Island newspapers, Gov. Lincoln Chafee discussed issues surrounding the state including the budget, Twin River Casino, the LNG controversy, same-sex marriage and unemployment.
Along with the Jamestown Press, the governor spent nearly an hour fielding questions in his conference room at the State House with representatives from East Bay Newspapers, the Valley Breeze, South County Independent, North East Independent and the Cranston Herald.
The governor expressed his interest in making the meeting a monthly occurrence, so that smaller communities in Rhode Island can stay in the loop of what is going on at Capitol Hill.
Chafee began the gathering by discussing how he has settled down into his new position after his first couple of months, but still has a long road ahead of him. “It’s about the people you put in place,” he said, referring to his staff. He said a good team is the key to making the road to recovery as “smooth as can be.”
Possibly the state’s biggest problem is the $300 million budget deficit. Chafee used a sports analogy to describe his philosophy: “When the team is not doing well, you go back to the basics.”
“I want to make sure every penny is accounted for,” he added. “I’m an old-fashioned deficit hog.”
Although Chafee did discuss budget issues, the meeting took place four days before his scheduled budget recommendations, so some details weren’t available.
He did mention that “Rhode Island can do better.”
According to one of his staff members, unemployment dropped from 11.5 percent to 11.3 percent last month, although Chafee added, “Government doesn’t create jobs.”
While discussing Twin River Casino, the 24-hour gaming center in Lincoln , Chafee once again declared his opposition to making it a full-service casino. “I’m not a casino advocate,” Chaffee said. “I’m opposed to it.”
Unlike full-service casinos such as Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, Twin River doesn’t have traditional gambling tables for games like poker, blackjack and roulette. Instead, gambling is done exclusively on machines.
“There are slot machines as far as the eye can see,” Chafee said. “That’s [already] a casino, which is my point.”
Although Chafee has made his position clear in the fight against Weaver’s Cove Energy, a Hessowned company that plans on building an LNG terminal in Mt. Hope Bay in Fall River, Mass., he also said that the prospect of LNG as a whole is important. “It’s abundant and burns cleanly,” he said.
Although the governor said that he didn’t attend the second Congress of Councils, which was held in Fall River on Feb. 16, because he said his office didn’t receive the invitation, he was in attendance for the first congress, which was held in Jamestown in September.
Chafee also defended his stance on gay marriage. The governor took some heat from conservatives and religious leaders after he made same-sex marriage one of his first major priorities after taking office. Chafee even addressed the issue during his inauguration speech. “I’m going to continue to be an advocate,” he said, “because I think it’s important.”
Chafee said that the majority of responses have been in opposition, but said that that is because people who are against an issue are usually more vocal than people in support of it. “It’s like FOX news, “ he said. “They tend to be noisier.”
In response to the state’s education, Chafee continues to be a proponent towards it. “Education is always a priority,” he said, “just as it has been my entire career.”