State leaders say they’re working to settle pension lawsuit

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The governor and general treasurer said Wednesday that losing the billions in savings at stake in the court battle over the public pension overhaul would be financially devastating, and they’re actively working to settle the case.

Gov. Gina Raimondo and Treasurer Seth Magaziner said they couldn’t discuss details of a proposed settlement because of a court confidentiality order.

Retirees suing the state over the 2011 overhaul will vote on a potential settlement Monday. They, along with public-sector unions sued over higher retirement ages and cuts to cost-of-living increases that were designed to save the state $4 billion over 20 years.

“The responsible thing to do is to try to settle the case on good terms and take the risk of losing the case off the table,” Raimondo said.

Magaziner said the state’s case is strong and he thinks they can win. But Magaziner said he’s also hoping for a negotiated deal, to reduce the uncertainty moving forward.
The trial is scheduled to begin April 20.

The head of the retirees’ coalition, Roger Boudreau, said he couldn’t comment because of the court order. It’s unclear whether other groups are included in the proposed settlement.

Raimondo says the state is “working furiously” to prepare for trial, but also to settle on terms that are good for both the taxpayers and pension recipients.

“I am working day and night to settle this case, and it would be a great thing for the people of Rhode Island if we could settle this case on good terms and put it behind us,” Raimondo said.

A settlement was announced on Valentine’s Day last year. The deal ultimately was rejected after police union members voted it down.

The overhaul of Rhode Island’s public pension system has been used as a model for other states as they change their own pension systems to cut costs.

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