AP News

Attorneys to discuss RI pension settlement talks


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A proposed settlement may have been reached in Rhode Island's landmark pension litigation after a federal mediator announced Monday that lawyers on both sides of the case will soon report back to the public.

Lawyers for the state and the public-sector unions suing to block the law plan to hold a joint press conference Wednesday at the state's Department of Administration.

"The parties are continuing to work cooperatively, and it is the appropriate time to update Rhode Islanders," wrote John Arnold, a spokesman for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which has been overseeing the closed-door mediation in the case for more than year.

Earlier Wednesday, the board of the state's Employees' Retirement System is scheduled to discuss and possibly vote on what its agenda calls a proposed settlement in the case.

Dan Beardsley, director of the state's League of Cities and Towns and a member of the state retirement board, said that when taken together, the press conference and the agenda item indicate a settlement will soon be announced.

"There's no question — in this case one and one add up to two," said Beardsley, who said he doesn't know the details of the settlement proposal.

The 2011 pension law raised retirement ages, suspended pension increases and made other changes to the state's public pension system in an effort to save billions of dollars in future decades. But public-sector unions and retirees sued to block the changes.

Any proposed settlement would require approval by the General Assembly. Top lawmakers are watching the process closely because of the possibility that a settlement could significantly change the state's public retirement system and increase pension costs by millions of dollars every year.

A message was left with General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who leads the retirement board and was the top supporter of the pension overhaul. A spokeswoman for Gov. Lincoln Chafee declined to respond to questions.

"We cannot comment because we are still under the court order of confidentiality," wrote Faye Zuckerman, Chafee's communications director.


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