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Roberts Says State Budget Problems Not Getting Better (posted August 12, 2007)

Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts says that the state's budget problems are not getting better. Appearing on the WJAR-TV show "10 News Conference", she said that "we have a significant budget problem" and "I know we need to make cuts". When asked for specifics on where items could be cut, she cited the emergency room co-pay of $25 for public employee health care programs and said it is "not much of a disincentive" to people going to the emergency room and that "maybe it goes up" during union negotiations. She said she thought public employees might be willing to do their share of cuts as long as there was a collaborative approach during the negotiation process.

The announced merger between Lifespan and several area hospitals also was an object of discussion. Roberts called it both "a challenge and an opportunity". She said she was worried about other hospitals because the new union would control two-thirds of the state's hospital beds. The real challenge, she indicated, would be the state's community hospitals, which are struggling financially.

Quizzed about Judge Susan McGuirl's recent decision to compel testimony in the smoke-shop court case from Governor Don Carcieri, Roberts said "I respect her opinion" and "I defer to the judge". At the same time, though, she said she thought governors were right to exert "a fairly strong executive privilege" claim.

Roberts said she was "surprised" that the governor would seek an opinion from conservative defender James Bopp in a legal case involving same-sex marriage. "I look to the Attorney General to be my lawyer", she said.